Mandjabu (Fish Trap)

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 is called mandjabu and is made from a strong, durable vine called milil, and a smaller one is called manylik mandjabu, and 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. In earlier times, only men were involved in the construction of the large fish traps, but children would often crawl inside and assist.

To make mandjabu, weavers firstly harvest milil (burney vine, Malaisia scandens) and put it in water overnight to make it soft. Then they start weaving it; they make rings for the inside to keep the fish trap’s shape. People also make string from the bark of burdaga (kurrajong) to attach the bardainy (hibiscus) rings and to tie the conical end of the fish trap. It’s hard work and it can take three or four weeks to make a fish trap. People also use fish-net fences called kunkarlewabe. They would put the kunkarlewabe  across rivers and creeks. In the middle they would place the mandjabu. They also used small things like sticks, rocks, mud and grass to block the fish from going through. This way we would catch fish such as saltwater barramundi rajarra, ngaldadmurrng (freshwater barramundi), small black freshwater catfish (buliya), bonefish (an-guwirrpiya), and sand bass (dalakan) in the mandjabu.