Object: Fish Hook

E/1955/6/134 b
Fish hook
Malaita, Solomon Islands
Circa 1940
Sea shell, tortoise shell, glass beads, fiber

The shaft of this fish hook, made from sea shell, measures just under three inches. The barb is made of tortoise shell and is attached to the shaft by fiber twine. Also attached to one end of the shaft is a set of glass beads on a fiber string. It was made on the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands around 1940.

These types of hooks have long been used in the Solomon Islands to catch one particular kind of fish, bonito.

Bonito are medium size fish that swim in large schools. They are similar to tuna, but smaller. The people of the Solomon Islands have relied on Pacific Bonito for thousands of years and continue to do so today.

Historically, trolling was the most effective way for Solomon Islanders to catch bonito. Indeed, that is how this hook was designed to be used. They are not meant to be cast and reeled in over and over until a fish is caught. Instead, fishermen cast these hooks out behind their boats and move through schools of bonito. The bonito react to the quickly moving hooks by biting them. No bait is necessary. The action and color of the beads attached to the end of the hook encourage bonito to bite as both mimic distressed or dying baitfish.

This hook and the trolling method associated with it is just one of the many unique tools and strategies Solomon Islanders developed to take advantage of the plentiful marine resources around them. While this technique is probably the most ancient among them, others such as kite fishing, might be considered more ingenious.

Kite fishing in the Solomon Islands is used primarily for catching small needlefish. With mouths too small for seashell/tortoise shell hooks such as the one profiled here, fishermen of the Solomon Islanders learned to utilize spider webs and kites to catch these fast fish. Watch the video below to learn more about this unconventional fishing technique.

Work Cited

California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Marine Sport Fish Identification: Tuna & Mackerels. http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/ mspcont1.asp

Division of Ethnology: Database of Ethnology. Fish hook. http://www.snomnh.ou.edu/db2/ethnology/detail.php?recordID=E-55-6-134%20b

Infoplease. Solomon Islands. http://www.infoplease.com/country/solomon-islands.html

Oxford Dictionaries. Definition of Troll. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/troll-2

Solomon Islands Department of Commerce, Employment and Tourism. Malaita Province. http://www.commerce.gov.sb/Gallery/Malaita.htm

[Jacob Boren]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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