William Panui talks about fishing, 1989.

[Found under: “Storytelling now a respected art”]

William Panui: Fish tales

Pacific Islands: Reef fishing on the Big Island

William Panui was adopted by his grandparents and grew up on land the family owned at remote Keei Beach on the South Kona coast.

His grandfather—Lui Kauanoe Panui—only spoke Hawaiian and taught him the old ways of fishing. “The old techniques depended on what was available,” he said. “Now you can just go to the store and buy everything you need.”

It was a rustic way of life: no electricity, no running water, meals cooked on wood stoves outside. Panui fished days and nights, whenever he wasn’t in school.

He left the Big Island to attend Kamehameha Schools (class of ’47), then served in the military in Korea and Vietnam. Now 60 years old, he’s an assistant safety coordinator for MTL Inc.

Panui has lectured for the University of Hawaii and teaches an evening adult class in Hawaiian at Kamehameha Schools. His grandfather died in 1960 at age 97.

He returns to fish at Keei Beach two or three times a year and misses the old days. “I hope to go back there and retire,” Panui said.

■     ■     ■

“To use the old techniques you need patience. For instance, my grandfather and I used to fish for kole, it used to be a favorite of the old folks. They eat it raw.

“It’s a small brown fish with a yellow ring around the eyes, and to catch that we used the dried ink sac of the squid prepared a certain way.

“Each of the folks in those days had certain ingredients that they added into the bait, and if it proved really successful, they wouldn’t reveal it to anybody, that was their trade secret…

“The Hawaiians count fish by what they call kaau. Kaau is 40; if you catch something less than the kaau, they won’t even count it. Then they go by 10s: 10 kaau would be called a lau, that’s 10 times 40. Then 10 times that would be mano, then 10 times the mano is called kini.

“Then beyond that it’s called lehu, which means ashes. Because you can’t count ashes, right? That’s how they used to count fish.”

(Star-Bulletin, 10/12/1989, B1)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, B1. October 12, 1989.

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