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The Autobiography of a Maori

An Ominous Fish

An Ominous Fish

One more fish story. It is a Maori notion that a fish hooked by the belly instead of by the mouth is a sure sign that the fisher's wife is misconducting herself on shore and it inevitably spoils a man's fishing for the day.

page 146

Two fishing boats had put out of Hicks Bay for a day's fishing in the vicinity of Matakaoa Point. The two boats dropped anchor close to each other. Tauranga felt a bite on his line and he pulled it in. It revealed a snapper and also Popata's line, tangled with his own. Popata, who was in the other boat, was not paying much attention to his line. A mischievous idea struck Tauranga and he quickly unhooked the fish from his own line and hooked it by the belly to Popata's line. Popata felt the fish wriggling on his line and gladly pulled it up. As he looked over the gunnel of the boat to see the bright pink snapper coming up, he saw, to his amazement, that it was hooked by the belly. He took great care not to let his companions notice his misfortune, but the mischievous Tauranga, in the other boat, was laughing up his sleeve. Popata quietly unhooked the ominous fish and put it in his kit. When the boats reached the shore, the women, of course, were there ready to clean the day's catch. Popata stepped ashore and, seeing his wife, threw the fatal snapper at her feet, saying at the same time, "There's your fish, yours and his." When Mrs. Popata,' puzzled by her husband's conduct, asked, "What's the matter with you?" he replied, "I know what's the matter with me, for I know all about it. I have been told by the gods." For weeks the couple lived apart, but Tauranga's conscience began to prick him and he humbly owned up that he had played a mean trick on poor Popata.