Commonly referred to as Occy’s!
Octopus have lived on this planet for over 500 million years and like all cephalopods are a cunning creature with exceptional hunting skills. They can change body colouration to blend in perfectly with their environment and mainly feed on crabs. Although octopus are generally targeted for bait throughout Australia they are also quite tasty when cooked correctly. There are two main varieties of octopus commonly encountered throughout Australia, the common octopus – (Vulgaris cuvier) and the smaller southern blue ringed octopus – (Hapalochlaena maculosa). Which is of course extremely deadly! There is a third species also, the greater blue ringed octopus which is also deadly and some what rarer than the others. This species is generally encountered in more tropical, northern waters. All octopi have 240 suckers on each tentacle which there are eight of in total, hence the name. Octopi also posses three hearts and an astonishing eight brains, one on each tentacle and one in the head making them one of the most cunning and clever animals on earth.
Common octopus can be located in healthy numbers around the entire continent and are quite accustomed to both warmer, northern and cooler, southern environments.
Common octopus can grow to around 1.3 meters in length and weigh as much as 10kg although most common octopus encountered throughout Australia average around 3 – 4kg in weight.
Common octopus prefer a habitat of shallow reef with many cracks and crevasses for them to shelter. Most flat, inshore reef systems found throughout Australia will hold good quantities of octopus which can be gathered as the tide falls. Shallow offshore weed beds and reef systems will also hold healthy numbers of larger octopus which can be gathered using home made traps.
Octopus are an odd looking creature with eight arms extending from an egg shaped torso. They posses rows of sucker plates running horizontally beneath each long arm and can alter their colouration from dull brown to bright red. They have two eyes that are similar in appearance to that of the cuttle fish and a powerful parrot like beak which is used for crushing and feeding upon crabs.
Common octopus are a very under rated table species, when cooked right they are delicious either pickled and eaten cold or cooked!
Common octopus are reasonably exciting to catch from shore by hand and can also be caught using PVC tube or terracotta pot style traps which are lowered to the sea floor around shallow weed beds and reef systems.
Octopus pots can be made from either PVC tubing or terracotta pots with some weight added to the base end of the pot. Three to six of these pots are then attached to dropper style lengths of rope or cable and further attached at intervals along the lengthy main section of rope, kind of like a big Paternoster rig with a float at the top end. These traps are then left over night and retrieved the next day and are a great source of fresh bait and tasty octopus!
There are crab styled octopus jigs available which the Japanese use to great success however this technique is still relatively unexplored here in Australia.
Be very quick to place your octopus into the bucket when gathering them by hand, it really isn’t a pleasant feeling when they wrap around your arm and bite!
A falling tide is most preferable when collecting octopus from shallow reef ledges by hand and a rising tide is better for trapping, although if traps are left over night tide is not that crucial. Bright nights around a full moon are also ideal for collecting by hand.