He’eia Fishpond

He'eia Fishpond History

He’eia Fishpond is our next door neighbor located immediately to the south of He’eia State Park.  This amazing icon of ancient Hawaiian culture is one of the last true remaining ancient Hawaiian fishponds on windward Oahu!

This wall was originally built 600-800 years ago by the Hawaiians to be used as a self-sustaining fish farm.  Massive volcanic rocks were carried by hand from miles away and placed using stone-age technology to form the wall, which is over one mile around!  Lighter, more easily available coral rubble has been used to fill in the middle in between layers of volcanic rock.

Over the course of almost a century, starting in the early 1900’s, invasive mangrove trees spread throughout the area, destroying large parts of the wall and other structures.  Once the fishpond was no longer used as it traditionally was, it fell into a state of disrepair over the years.  Many of the real ancient fishponds no longer exist at all today.

How The Fishpond Works

Many fishponds, including this one, were built in areas where a freshwater stream empties into the ocean.  An estuary ecosystem was ideal for algae and things to grow for the fish to eat (you don’t want fish in the pond that eat other fish).

The fishpond has many openings on all sides with gates called makaha that would allow ocean water and fresh water to flow freely in and out with the tide, and also allow small fish to enter into the pond from the bay.  Once inside the pond, the fish were free to eat until they grew too large to get back out.

Fish inside the pond will generally swim out against the tide when it is coming in through the gate, but then not be able to get out through the makaha on the outside of the wall.  When it was time to harvest some fish, the Hawaiians just had to wait for the right tide when the fish would swim out, and then insert another barrier on the inside of the opening in the wall.  Now all the fish are trapped in a very small area the width of the wall itself, making it easy for them to be harvested.



He'eia Fishpond Today

He’eia Fishpond is not only one of the few remaining of its kind, it is also unique in its size and shape.  Most fishponds would have extended out from one point on the shoreline and then ended at another point further down the shoreline.  He’eia Fishpond as built as a complete circle on the edge of the stream.  With a circumference of over one mile, and an area of 88 acres, this is also one of Oahu’s largest fishponds.  Just to put that into perspective, He’eia State Park is only 18 acres!

Today He’eia Fishpond is private property.  It is being restored and preserved as the priceless artifact of Hawaiian culture that it truly is.  It is not open to the public currently, and kayakers are not allowed to land or walk on the wall, or go inside the pond.  It is possible to kayak into the stream, especially at higher tides.  And kayaking is absolutely the best way to get a close up look at this truly special place!