“In old times people would make these mandjabu (fish traps) to go fishing. They are made with vine we find in the jungle. That old man, Anchor Gulunba, he showed me how to make these fish traps. I would sit there and watch him making them. We catch barramundi, catfish, all kinds of fish.” – Helen Lanyinwanga
Kuninjku people traditionally make two sorts of conical fish traps. One called mandjabu made from a vine called milil, and another smaller one called manylik mandjabu, made from the grass manylik. The mandjabu conical fish trap is bigger and stronger and used in tidal reaches of creeks to catch large fish. The smaller, lighter manylik trap is used in freshwater flowing creeks to catch smaller fish and freshwater prawns. Traditionally, only men were involved in the construction of the large fish traps, but children would often crawl inside and assist.
To make fish traps and fish net fences artists firstly get vine (milil) from the jungle and they put it in water for one night to make it soft. Next they start weaving it; they make rings for the inside to keep the fish trap’s shape. Artists work for three or four weeks on the fish trap. They also make string from kurrajong (burdaga) to attach the hibiscus (bardainy) rings and to tie the conical end of the fish trap. This fish trap is used in saltwater and freshwater. People also use fish net fences called mun-dirra. A long time ago they would put the mun-dirra across rivers and creeks. In the middle they would place the an-gujechiya. They also used small things like sticks, rocks, mud and grass to block the fish from going through. People would then catch fish like saltwater barramundi rajarra, freshwater barramundi (janambal), small black freshwater catfish (buliya), bonefish (an-guwirrpiya), and sand bass (dalakan) in these fish traps.