Fishing Equipment Hawaiian Style

Most modern fishing tackle boxes host many methods of catching fish. But when it comes to fishing equipment, you’d be hard pressed to beat the resourceful Hawaiians.

These ocean going Polynesians knew a thing or two about fishing long, before we in the West had it sussed. With no plastic or shiny metal in their armoury – good old mother nature provided everything.

Here’s your chance to check out some fancy fishing equipment, Hawaiian style.

The knowledge

Traditional Hawaiian Fishing

Traditional Hawaiian Fishing
Source: Owen Franken

Hawaiians’ lives revolved around the sea.  They had an intimate knowledge of the tides and were able to predict with pinpoint accuracy the comings and goings of sea creatures.  

But fishing wasn’t just a means of putting food on the palm leaf – it was also a way of pleasing the Gods, and the ruling classes – a great excuse to go fishing.

And when the fishing was done, out came the surfboards.  Hawaiians knew how to fish and have fun.

Fishing ponds

Loko Kuapa

Loko Kuapa
Source: Hawaii Vacation Rental

To ensure year round access to fresh fish the Hawaiians used natural foreshore features to create fishing lakes.

Known as a loko kuapa these unique fish larders were fitted with a sluice gate – a makaha – through which the tide could run.

On an incoming tide, fishermen would position themselves at the opening with their nets, ready to catch fish attracted by the influx of food rich new water.


Hawaiian Fish Hook

Hawaiian Fish Hook
Source: Etsy

Modern hooks are a throw away item designed to rust fast. In old Hawaii, however, a fish hook was a prized possession to be used with care.

Not surprising considering that each hook was hand made from human or bird bone, shell, wood or whale ivory. Elegantly carved, the maker would embellish his hook with numerous barbs to ensure he snagged his prey securely.


Colourful fishing lures

Colourful fishing lures
Source: Bass Fishing Tricks

With access to myriad sparkling, brightly colored or super realistic rubber creations, today’s angler has a lure for every occasion.

Our ancient grass skirt wearing friends may not have had modern materials but don’t think that stopped them.

They were limited only by their craftsmanship and imagination. Cowry shells, paua and mother of pearl were used to attract the fish as well as bait bags and wood and bone squid jigs.


Olona Rope

Olona Rope
Source: Wikipedia

What would we do without tough monofilament nylon fishing line?

The Hawaiians used a braided fishing line made from the natural plant fibre Olona. This amazing product is high strength and doesn’t stretch or kink. When Western mariners discovered it, they thought it was the bees knees.

Rope made from the stuff was half the diameter and twice the strength of hemp lines. Olona is also quite pliant and soft making it suitable for clothing manufacture – it’s one of the most useful forgotten gifts of nature.

Fishing for the future

traditional fishing pacific

The future of fishing relies on tradition
Source: American Samoa

Just two traditional Hawaiian fishing islands remain. But now residents of Oahu are fighting back. They have begun the process of restoring the island of Mokauea to its former glory.

They hope to reinstate it as a fully functioning subsistence fishing island, complete with a well stocked fish pond, helping to create a sustainable knowledge base of skills for future generations of Hawaiians.