Hawaiian History Straight from the Islands! - Ancient Hawaiian Fishing

In this image we see a method of ancient Hawaiian fishing. It is from the Hawaii State Archives where it has this description: “Fisherman on traditional outrigger canoe.” Image online via NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).


Ancient Hawaiians fished smarter than people that catch fish now! If you want to know why, well you have to keep on reading to find out.

In ancient Hawaii fishing was one of the most important skills. It took great patience to use modern methods in Ancient Hawaii. People provided many methods to catch their fish. They made many uses of fish ponds and how to prepare a feast.

Some techniques people would use are call hamahau. You would have to use great skill and have much patience because you would have to use your hand and when you feel the fish swim by you would have to swiftly catch it with your bare hands and you would have to try to see through the water to locate the fish.

Another method they would do is making a solid wall with rocks that people brought down from the mountain and making a little gate so when the fish enter the gate they start eating as much as they can fit in. They get fat and they won't be able to escape, so the ancient Hawaiians can catch the fish easier.

Another method that includes your hand is by setting a fish by your side and when a fish comes by you would have to grab it by its mouth and pull it up. People also would use woven baskets with little creels and would put it at the end of the river so when the fish swims down the river it would go in the creel and will end up in the basket then the people will close the creel so the fish won’t be able to escape.

The ancient Hawaiian made a kapu that you would only catch fish on certain months so they can let the fish give birth and give them time to get big. The ancient Hawaiian also made this a kapu because people were afraid that they would over fish. Over fishing is when the people catch too much fish and their population decreases. Overall people used and provided many methods to catch their fish easily.                                                                                                                                  

When the ancient Hawaiians wanted to start a feast they would prepare washing the fish with water and use a method called lomi and that’s when they use their fingers to soften the meat to let salt penetrate deeper. They would eat their fish raw, cooked, and dried. The ancient Hawaiians made their fish baked, or steamed with hot rocks. If the Hawaiians had any spare fish they would keep it salted because that can keep it fresh for a long time. In conclusion it took hard work to start a feast.

Fishponds were also important to Hawaiian culture because it was part of fishing. They would use two types of fishponds onshore and off shore. The first true fishpond was probably built during the later part of the fifteenth century. The Hawaiians were the first ones to make use of fishponds. People still make use of fishponds but there aren’t as many as before. After all fishpond are still used in many ways including now.               

By now I think you know that fishing wasn’t just for fun. It was actually a really important skill to the Hawaiian culture and if you broke the kapu you would have to pay by death. Fish has much protein and was one of the most important foods. As the days got older the Hawaiians would create more improved techniques.

Many people still use the methods that ancient Hawaiians provided for them to catch fish. Fishponds are a really important part of fishing and have many uses for trying out different skills. It is a really important skill to remember and hopefully people will make use of the methods from this day forward.

Original Release: Jun 01, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jul 09, 2019

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"Ancient Hawaiian Fishing" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2015. Feb 17, 2020.
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