Hukilau – Catching fish the Hawaiian way

Hukilau - catching fish as a community, Kauai-style. Photo courtesy Kauai Historical Society

Hukilau – catching fish as a community, Kauai-style. Photo courtesy Kauai Historical Society

Oh we’re going to the hukilau Huki huki huki huki hukilau Everybody loves the hukilau Where the laulau is the kaukau at the big luau
 Have you ever danced to this song while at Kauai luau? Donna Gomez, born and raised on Kauai, and her brother-in-law, Jay Furfaro, an unofficial North Shore Kauai historian, describe what hukilau were like, catching fish the Hawaiian way. (Excerpted from my forthcoming new book, Kauai Stories II.) Note: Hukilau, like all Hawaiian words, is the same both singular and plural. Donna Gomez: In a hukilau, you leave the ends of one side of a huge fishing net on the beach and take the rest of the net out on a boat. When they spot a pile of fish they throw the net out of the boat. When the net drops, divers surround it to be sure the fish are inside the net. Then everyone on the beach – 50 people on this side and 50 people on that side – start pulling the beach side of the net to bring it onto the sand. That’s what huki is, pull, pull. You can see all the fish in the net and they are jumping! The net is full. One the net is pulled onto the sand, everyone stands in a circle and joins their hands. The man who owns the boat stands in the middle and he throws you a fish. He throws them out like he is dealing cards! If you touched the net, you get a fish – nobody ever goes hungry.

We’re going to hukilau today

Furfaro: Hukuilau were taking place on Kauai’s North Shore, all the way up until the closure of Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company in 1971, whenever there was a good catch coming in. Word just went out. At the sugar mill they would actually blow the whistle to let people know. People knew an evening tide or high tide, “Hey we’re going to hukilau today.” When they did the portioning out of the fish, the mahele, usually it was directed at some level of equity for how much you brought and how much you participated. After the hukilau there was a paina, a celebration, where everybody ate fresh fish and had a nice time.

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