Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Halibut hook

iqsak “fishhook”
Language: Koniag Sugpiaq (Kodiak Island dialect)

When an American hooks a big halibut he never gives the line a sudden jerk in case the wood splits or the baidarka [kayak] is capsized, so he draws it in and lets it out again until the halibut is exhausted; after this the fish can be killed with a blow on the head from a stick.

—Gavriil Davydov, from “Two Voyages to Russian America, 1802-1807”

Halibut was a staple food, eaten fresh, dried, or smoked. The large fish were taken using V-shaped wooden hooks that floated a short distance above the sea floor, held down by a stone sinker. This hook is carved with animal faces which faced downward so that bottom-dwelling halibut could see and be attracted to them. A strong line made of twisted kelp, sinew, or baleen extended up to an inflated animal stomach buoy on the surface.

Culture: Sugpiaq (Alutiiq)
Region: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Object Category: Fishing
Dimensions: Length 25cm
Accession Date: 1898
Source: Emile Granier (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E200831