Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/243

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BAIT FOR CUTTLE-FISH.

for any fish that may escape the net, and throwing their spears at such fugitives with almost unerring aim. It is a scene of immense excitement; and the fun of the sport is enhanced by the prospect of an abundant supper. For this sort of fishing seine-nets are made, 100 feet in length; or else several large nets, about 40 feet long by 12 deep, are joined together so as to enclose a very wide space.

Women carry small fine casting-nets in the hand, and throw them so dexterously as often to enclose a whole shoal of little fishes; some kinds are no bigger than whitebait. For larger fish, akin to herrings and salmon, various nets are made of different fibres, such as the hybiscus, banyan, or pandanus bark or flax, the two latter being the strongest and most durable. Sometimes two nets are thrown at the same time—an inner net with fine mesh, and an outer one much coarser—to resist any larger fish which might break through the inner one. They were weighted by stones wrapped in cocoa-nut fibre, and the floats are made of hybiscus-wood, which is found to be very buoyant. When the nets are brought ashore, they are hung up to dry on the trees and shrubs.

Nowadays the ordinary hooks of commerce have almost superseded the clumsy but efficacious hooks of pearl-shell or bone. Those used in fishing for dolphin or bonitos were formerly attached to a mother-of-pearl shank, about six inches long, carved to resemble a fish. Excellent wooden hooks were also made by twisting the young roots of the casuarina or iron-wood tree, and leaving them till they had grown to a suitable size. In old days, when sharks were considered a delicacy, they were beguiled by large wooden hooks from twelve to fifteen inches in length. Cuttle-fish are attracted by a bait very much resembling that used in Fiji, where an imitation of a rat is made of cowrie-shells. I do not know whether the Tahitians have a similar legend of the enmity between the rat and the cuttle-fish. Here the cowrie-shells are cut into pieces, and fastened one over another like the scales of an armadillo, and so made into an oval ball the size of a rat. This being attached to a strong line, is lowered from a canoe, and gently jerked so as to move like a living creature. The cuttle-fish,