Indian Fish Hooks

Indian Fish Hooks – Starting from the simple device of attaching the bait to the end of a line, the progressive order of fish hooks used by the Indians seems to be as follows: (a) The gorge hook, a spike of bone or wood, sharpened at both ends and fastened at its middle to a line, a device used also for catching birds; (b) a spike set obliquely in the end of a pliant shaft; (c) the plain hook; (d) the barbed hook; (e) the barbed hook combined with sinker and lure. This series does not exactly represent stages in invention; the evolution may have been effected by the habits of the different species of fish and their increasing wariness. The material used for hooks by the Indians was wood, bone, shell, stone, and copper. The Mohave employed the recurved spines of certain species of cactus, which are natural hooks. Data on the archeology of the fish hook have been gathered from the Ohio mounds and the shell-heaps of Santa Barbara, Cal., unbarbed hooks of bone having been found on a number of Ohio sites and gorge hooks at Santa Barbara. The fishhook of recent times may be best studied among the x. Pacific tribes and the Eskimo of Alaska. The Makah of Washington have a modified form of the gorge hook, consisting of a sharpened spine of bone attached with a pine-root lash to a whalebone. British Columbian and s. Alaskan tribes used either a simple hook of bent wood having a barb lashed to a point, or a compound hook consisting of a shank of wood, a splint of pine-root lashed at an angle of 45 to its lower end, and a simple or barbed spike of bone, wood, iron, or copper lashed or set on the outer end of the splint. Eskimo hooks consisted frequently of a shank of bone with a curved, sharpened spike of metal set in the lower end, or several spikes were set in, forming a gig. Usually, however, the Eskimo hook had the upper half of its shank made of stone and the lower half of ivory, in which the unbarbed curved spike of metal was set, the parts being fastened together by lashings of split quill. A leader of quill was attached to the hook and a bait of crab carapace was hung above the spike. This is the most complex hook known in aboriginal America.

Lines and poles varied like the hook with the customs of the fishermen, the habits of the fish, and the environment. The Eskimo used lines of knotted lengths of whalebone quill, hair, or sinew; the n. Pacific tribes, lines of twisted bark, pine root, and kelp; and other tribes lines of twisted fiber. Short poles or none were used by the Eskimo and x. Pacific tribes. In. other regions it is probable that long poles of cane or saplings were used. In some regions, as on the N. W. coast, a trawl, consisting of a series of hooks attached by leaders to a line, was used for taking certain species of fish. The Haida, according to Swanton, made a snap hook, consisting of a hoop of wood, the ends of which were held apart by a wooden peg. This peg was displaced by the fish on taking the bait, and the ends of the hoop snapped together, holding the fish by the jaw. See Fishing.

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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