National Geographic : 1977 Nov
To catch an octopus, Tongans dangle a rat in effigy In the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga, legend says that an octo pus gave a rat, floundering in the sea, a ride to shore. Once on land, the ungrateful rat called out: "O octopus, feel of your head; see what I have left there." Its head soiled, the octopus from that day has hated rats. Taking advantage of its enmity, Tongan fishermen fashion lures like the one shown here. Made from limestone, spotted cowrie shell, and coconut fronds and roots, this maka-feke represents a rat but resembles a crab, the octopus's favorite food. What ever the appeal, the lure works. Hanging on tenaciously, the octopus is lifted from the sea. Fishermen's methods are as varied as their victims. Some Japanese fish with birds. A tethered cormorant, its neck tied to prevent swallowing any but the smallest catch, may nab 150 fish an hour. Another live aid is the remora, a fish equipped with a dorsal fin in the form of a suction disk. On the east coast of Africa these sucker fish, lines strung through their tails, latch onto turtles. In Oceania, islanders catch garfish with spider web. How? They fasten a ball of the gos samer threads to a line and wait for the fish to snag their teeth on it. In Europe, eels are cap tured the same way, on a bob of twine. If an eel shakes loose when pulled up, it's caught in an open umbrella held upside down. Many fish seem made to catch themselves. In Latvia, baskets suspended over waterfalls catch jumping salmon. In Yugoslavia, mullet leap into boats blocking migration streams. Flailing the surface of the water with long poles, Brazil's Waura Indians frighten fish into waiting nets. Another Brazilian tribe, the Erigbaagtsa, stalk fish from the tops of bankside trees. His bow and arrow at the ready, a tribesman chews on fruits and lets the scraps fall into the water. When a fish rises for a nibble, an arrow flies. Then the fisherman leaps in and seizes his prize. It is not known what Julio Buel ate that day in 1834 when he lunched on the shore of a Vermont lake. But the story goes that he was using a spoon, and it dropped into the water. A large fish saw it reflecting the light and struck. Buel also saw the light: He soldered a hook to the bowl of another spoon. Lo! a famous trolling lure was born. Whether spoon or maka-feke, fishermen's tricks have given birth to many good stories. Readers find them a flavorsome addition to the pages of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.