Pa kahawai (trolling lure); Unknown; 1800-1850; ME011848


Pa kahawai (trolling lure)

About this object

Pā kahawai are trolling lures designed to attract and hook large surface-feeding fish, such as kahawai (sea trout: Arripis trutta). Adapted from Polynesian trolling lures, pā kahawai are composite lures typically constructed using a ground and shaped pāua (large New Zealand abalone with blue-green inner shell) shell lure set in a wooden shank with a bone barb fixed at the base and bound tightly with muka (flax fibre) cord.

An unusual example

This pā kahawai is unusual because it has been made from the finest materials available. The shank is whale bone, and the pāua shell inlay has been carefully selected and fitted to it. The three-point pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) barb is expertly fashioned, and the ends of the hook are tightly bound by three-ply kiekie (climber: Freycinetia baueriana) fibre cord dyed in natural plant extracts.

A ceremonial purpose

The elaborate crafting suggests the lure was designed for a purpose beyond its functional capability. It possibly played a ceremonial role in pre-fishing rituals.

See more at Te Papa's Collections Online:



Maker Role


Date Made


Place Made

New Zealand

Medium and Materials

pounamu, ivory, paua shell, Kiekie


153 x 53 x 17mm

Object Type


Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

This object is from
whale bone

Include tags such as place names, people, dates, events and colours. Use commas to separate multiple tags. e.g. Pablo Picasso, Madrid, red, 1930s.