Amubu | Experiencing the Sama Box-Trap Fishing Method

An Introduction to Bubu Fishing

According to the Sinama dictionary, bubu is a large fish trap, box-like in shape, up to .6 x 2.0 x 2.5 meters in size, and woven of bamboo strips. The entrance funnel is at the end. To amubu is to catch fish with a bubu-type trap, usually in 8 to 10 fathoms of water.
I accompanied my friend Malante out on one of his frequent trips, inspecting his bubu.  To experience amubu is a whole lot better than an entry in a dictionary.  There is freediving involved.  I got to test my freediving as far as 12 fathoms.  Here is a video summarizing the experience and giving you a chance to see the bubu fishing method from both above and below water.

4 Bubu traps

At one time Bapa’ Malante had as many as 20 box-traps.  He prefers plastic over metal and also the traditional bamboo bubu because they can last for 10 years+.   It must be pretty easy to lose a trap.  Sama stress that you have to be good at using reference points to locate where you left your traps (amandoga).  This isn’t only true for bubu fishing, but also for spearfishing since it requires knowing where you can frequently find a good catch.  The bubu are sometimes stolen.  This is why Bapa’ Malante leaves his traps a little deeper than usual.  He said if he leaves them in the takot (a submerged reef) he would be sure to catch more fish, but he is also more likely to be robbed.  Stealing fish is traditionally punishable by local community authorities but also invokes a curse on the thief.
Bapa’ Malante checked his traps in two different ways.  For one way he drags a hook on the bottom of the ocean until he hooks a line that ties two bubu together.  He then pulls up one and then the other to see if he has any fish.  Following that check, we also dove after two other bubu.  Unfortunately two small fish was all that my friend pulled in when we went fishing.  I think he had actually checked his traps quite recently, but wanted to please me by taking me out.  A big thanks to Bapa’ Malante for sharing with us a little bit of Sama culture from underneath the water.

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