California Native American Fishing
They had various methods of catching fish—with hook and line, with a spear, by weir-traps in the stream, and by saturating the water with the juice of the soap-root plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum). Before they could obtain fishhooks of modern make, they made them of bone. Their lines were made of the tough, fibrous, silken bark of the variety of milkweed or silkweed, already mentioned. Their spears were small poles pointed with a single tine of bone, which was so arranged that it became detached by the struggles of the fish, and was then held by a string fastened near its center, which turned it crosswise of the wound and made it act as an effective barb.
The soap-root was used at a low stage of water, late in summer. They dug several bushels of the bulbous roots and went to a suitable place on the bank, where the roots were pounded into a pulp, and mixed with soil and water. This mixture, by the handful, was then rubbed on rocks out in the stream, which roiled the water and also made it somewhat foamy. The fish were soon affected by it, became stupid with a sort of strangulation, and rose to the surface, where they were easily captured by the Indians with their scoop baskets. In a stream the size of the South Fork of the Merced River at Wawona, by this one operation every fish in it for a distance of three miles would be taken in a few hours.
The fish were generally cooked by roasting on hot coals from burned oak wood or bark.