Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori
by Elsdon Best
First published 1929, Reprinted without textual alteration 1977, Reprinted 1986. Size: 250mm x 155mm. 264 pp. There is a total of 88 black and white photographs, and line drawings. Published by National Museum, Wellington. Dominion Museum Bulletin No.12
Elsdon Best was already 54 years old when he came to the National Museum in 1910. Over the next 21 years, he produced 25 books and 50 papers on Maori history and lore. Most of his extensive work was based on his own observations made during 20 years of his own experience with the Maori, in particular, the Tuhoe people of the Urewera. This book contains the only comprehensive account of Maori Fishing methods available.
The emphasis of this book is mainly, but not exclusively, inland and estuarine fishing techniques. Species fished for include: sharks and whales, crayfish, eels, whitebait, lamprey, flatfish, grayling, barracouta, shellfish, and others.
Best looks at the wide variety of fishing methods employed by the Maori including netting, line fishing, eel pots and others. The manufacture of fish hooks by Maori prior to the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand is fascinating.
Maori fishing methods were varied and practical. New Zealand lacked large animals for meat. The flightless moa became extinct before European settlement. However, the seas and inland waterways of New Zealand teemed with fish. However, as any angler knows, catching them requires knowledge and skill. Fish were a valuable source of protein to the old time Maori and they were expert fishermen.
Also covered are descriptions of the chants, special observances and fishing lore of the Maori.