Story: Te hopu tuna – eeling

Eeling, Lake Wairarapa

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One method for catching migrating eels at the mouth of Lake Ōnoke was described by Wairarapa elder Tame Saunders in 1965. Unusually, the nets and hīnaki face downstream. The eels swim with the current, trying to get to the sea. When they meet the sandbar and turn back, they are caught in the hīnaki.

In 1918, T. W. Downes described how eel pits were used to catch eels: ‘If a man has no hinaki, or if the pa-tuna are constructed too close for him to get another in, a shallow drain is dug from the river across the sand, terminating in a large hole. He watches the eels swim past till he considers he has enough in the hole, blocking with a stick any that seek to return. Then the drain, and later the hole, is filled with sand, quickly smothering the imprisoned fish. Such a place is called awa-one-huna.’

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Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: T. W. Downes, ‘Notes on eels and eel-weirs (tuna and pa-tuna).’ Transactions and proceedings of the Royal Institute of New Zealand 50 (1918). Wellington: Govt. Printing

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How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Te hopu tuna – eeling - Eel migrations – heke tuna', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 6 February 2023)

Story by Basil Keane, published 24 Sep 2007