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Octopus are one of the ocean's creatures that many fishers either hate, or are just really wary of. I've always been in the 'wary of' group. My first experience with an octopus was nothing special, I spotted just a few inches of two legs coming out from under a rock to grab a prawn that someone had dropped in the shallows. The gap that the legs came through was only tiny, barely larger than the prawn and I wondered how big the octopus was and how it was under the rock, with no other holes or spots for it to get under visible, surely it couldn't possibly get through such a tiny hole or lift the rock?

A man fishing close by came over to have a look and ended up lifting the rock and taking the octopus home- no way I was going to touch it when I was about 7 or 8 years old- too many cartoon images of angry ones grabbing things and clobbering their persecutors.  I had no idea that anyone would eat such a thing at any rate. The man told me that the octopus must have got under the rock through the tiny hole- there was no other way to get underneath, but I couldn't believe that, the hole was only just big enough for the two legs I'd seen, let alone the whole beast.

The next one I saw was at Pearl Beach a few years later, my older cousin David caught it from the rocks and it was a big one- with a head like a rock-melon. He managed to get it up onto the rocks, but once it touched the ground, there was no stopping it getting back into the water, they're just too strong once they get a grip on something solid. I was a bit disappointed that he ended up losing it, as I really wanted to check out the suckers on it's tentacles (when it was dead of course!), but try as we did, there was no stopping it getting back to the water.

A few years later, while I was fishing for Slimy Mackerel on the wharf almost under the south side of the Harbour Bridge, an older man caught another big one and lifted it out, this time however, the octopus wasn't allowed to touch the wharf and was dropped straight in one of those 20 litre white buckets on top of their Slimy haul. They cut the line and dropped a towel over it in the bucket, before he and his two big sons rejoiced and went back to fishing. 

The wharf was really crowded that day because the Slimy's were there in droves and biting their heads off, and nobody noticed the octopus climbing back out of the bucket until it was back on the wharf. No problem, the two sons used their rod butts to block it's escape, while the guy who caught it grabbed a knife and tried to stab it. The octopus had other ideas though and within a minute had wrestled the knife from the guy and actually looked like it was threatening them with the knife. Another bloke then grabbed his knife and attempted to do the same thing for exactly the same result! The big occi now had TWO knives and in a scene straight out of a comedy sketch, waved one knife in the air while still holding the other knife. All four men were trying to stop it's progress and it almost made it to the wooden steps where it could have slipped through and fallen back in the water below.

Finally, a fifth man came over with a bucket that had a lid and between the five of them, managed to get it into the bucket and they took it up onto the road and the fifth man cut it between it's eyes and it died. I still have the image of that octopus wielding the knife, it always makes me smile and it comes to mind whenever I think of them.

Then there was the one we caught in a bottle in Taylor Bay, it was only small but filled up half the bottle and again, how it got into the bottle through the narrow neck defied logic, but I guess the octopus didn't think of anything but a protective home. I've since seen a few other octopus brought in while still inside containers, like bits of PVC pipe and cans, at least the rubbish people throw in the water is useful as homes sometimes.

When we fished the base of the big cliffs at Dover Heights, during times of flat seas we often used crabs for bait and searched them out using a simple 'spear' which was just a piece of heavy gauge wire with one end bent around for a handle. We'd wade around in one of the many big pools and look in all the waterside crevices, then spear any red crabs we could see, red crabs are the top variety to use and they live both submerged and in 'wet' pools and crevices. The wire was used because it could be manipulated to whatever shape was necessary to get down the crevices- where the crabs hide during daylight hours.

The method always got you a few crabs, but there were a few disadvantages to collecting them this way. Firstly, it was a slow process to get any amount of crabs as you had to muck around with shaping your spear, second, by spearing them 'head-on' and dragging them out sideways, you often ripped out much of the fish-attracting meat and thirdly and just as important from an ecological perspective- any speared crabs would die, which of course meant an unused crab was wasted, and unable to be released. Some time later, we learned of different methods of catching red crabs, but initially it was the spear method- which is now outlawed.

What's all this got to do with octopus? Well, one day we were catching crabs with the spears, and our cliff climbing mentor Wally spotted a small occi in the pool we were wading in and quickly speared it with his wire. (It's no longer allowed to take octopus on rock platforms in NSW by the way, but this was near 40 years ago) He slid it up to the handle end of the wire and bashed it senseless on the rocks. He then turned the hood inside out and said that's how you kill an octopus, before continuing on with crab catching. Next crevice we came to, as Wally plunged his spear down the crack in order to get a crab, the dead octopus on the handle end also dangled over the next crack below. What happened next changed our crab gathering forever. 

With the spear well down the crevice and the dead octopus on the handle end, the dead one's legs flowed over a small crevice, hidden from sight and covered by cabbage weed, due to it being minimally lower in height and full of water, there were plenty of crabs that were also hidden from sight. All of a sudden crabs were running out of this other crevice and just standing on the rocks above the waterline. I managed to simply grab about half a dozen, as did Wally and my mate Fraser. It seemed the mere presence of the octopus in the crevice really freaked the crabs out and they ran from the water to get away from the occi. In no time, we had plenty of crabs for our fishing session, as each time the occi was deployed, crabs ran out everywhere.

What a great way to catch crabs for bait! Only problem was, it wasn't easy to find an octopus and you'd spend pretty much just about the same time gathering your occi then crabs as we were with the spear. Wonder if an ordinary plastic octopus skirt would work? Over the next few months we tried several different colours of 9 and 12 inch skirts- the same ones used on trolling lures. You just cut the very tip of the skirt off and attach it to the same thick, bendy wire and presto- the crab frightener was part of the regular kit. The best colours were bright red and pink, especially if you got bright striped ones. Crab gathering was now easy, thanks to the octopus.

Most fishers that have fished Clifton Gardens deep hole or the famous Sow and Pigs Reef in Sydney Harbour would also have at some point, encountered octopus. There are stacks of them on the sides of Clifton hole and there's plenty on the southern side of the 'Pigs' close to the hard reef. Any fish bait like a Pilchard or Yellowtail that stays on the bottom is fair game for the occi's and when the tide's stopped running at the Pigs you are likely to get one.

One trip to the Pigs for a club comp, the usual masses of Tailor failed to turn up and we only got a few on the dusk bite. I was fishing with Kenny Griffiths in his boat "Mud Crab" and we switched to fishing for Trevally instead of Tailor, but the Trev's were barely size (there was no legal size but our club had a 12 inch minimum size for any species) and the other species encountered around the reef weren't biting, so we tried a lot of different ideas before deciding to concentrate on getting a heap of big Yellowtail, which literally swarm the reef of a night time. 

Catching the Yellowtail is really easy, they're attracted to your burley bucket and then they just sit in the natural eddy formed by the back of the boat. You basically just pole them in and these are the larger "night-time" variety, good size for live baiting big stuff and great for fillet baits and cube burley.

Ever hopeful that the Tailor might still turn up, we left a Pilchard bait out each, with the rods left in the boat's rod holders and got stuck into the Yakka's. As the tide was nearing low, the flow of he water slows right down and of course the forgotten Tailor baits reach he bottom, resulting in an octopus each. As neither of us wanted one, when Kenny got his to the boat he just bounced the rod for a while and the occi let go. I made the mistake of letting mine get right next to the boat and of course it latched onto the side of the hull- no chance of pulling it off the fibreglass hull with 15 lb line.

That trip was the first time we were both using the Mustad 34007 stainless hooks to make our flights of gangs and they were an expensive hook and my occi was only hooked in it's leg with one of the 3 hooks, so Kenny suggested that I cut my line and tie it to the rod holder. When we'd done this a couple of times previously, after leaving it for a while, the octopus had unhooked itself and was gone, so I cut the line and tied it off, hoping the octopus would free itself and leave me my hooks.

We fished on for another hour or so, before deciding we had enough Yakka's and the last of our club's boats decided to call it a night. We soon had the boat on the plane en-route back to Rose Bay ramp. It's a few k's back to the ramp, but we flew in over the oily-smooth water in quick time and soon had the trailer backed down and the boat positioned to winch on. The boat was nearly half way on and as we checked to make sure everything was lined up roller-wise, then it appeared. It was the octopus that I'd tied to the rod holder. We'd forgotten about it and the poor thing was now stuck between the heavy fibreglass boat and roller, the leg with the hooks still dangling out the side. Kenny stopped winching and we slackened the cable and pushed the boat back enough for the occi to be clear of the roller and it fell onto the ramp, still on the hook.

We got a pair of pliers and got the hooks out of it and it just crawled back to the water and was off! Considering that we'd just driven a few km's with it between boat and water and then crushed it between boat and roller it was amazing, it seemed quite OK- well it looked OK to us and it moved freely- they really are a tough creature! Just for the record, I still don't like picking up a live one, I know how strong they are!

 

 

 

 

 

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  Great work again Wazza. Can relate to the knife story watched a mate try and dispatch one with a knife and to his shock the large occy ripped it out, it was decided that the occy was too tough for us and we let it escape. Pulled a large weight to shore once wondering what I had hooked up, was a large occy clinging to a long neck beer bottle full of mud would not give the bottle up for anyone.

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Hi Waza. Occys give me the creeps too and I still refuse to handle a large one.

The plastic occy for catching crabs was a great idea. My dad used to do something similar, but in a roundabout way. He'd tie a few short lengths of red rag to a length of wire and wave it around in the rockpools to mimic a red crab and coax small occys out of their lairs. Used whole, they were his favourite jew bait.

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1 hour ago, Burger said:

I can easily picture the ruckus with the occy and 2 knives!

Same! I can totally imagine combination of shock, fear of dinner escaping and rolling-on-the-floor-laughter all at the same time! That would be a story for the grandkids, for sure!

I've caught and eaten a couple of occys in my time, but they were comparably easy to handle. Never realised antipasto could be so much hard work!

Thanks Waza for the entertaining and interesting story.

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Another good story there Waza. Occys are smart critters.

 

Quite a few years ago, when the kids were kid size, took the family to the beach at Coledale for somewhere different. The kids wanted to walk along the rock platforms to see what was about, and I spied an average sized occy hiding in the pool. No crabs to be seen.

I looked in the next pool and found a few crabs, so grabbed a black crab and walked back to the occy. I held the crab underwater (the bloody thing kept trying to bite me) about 3 feet from the occy. The occy swam to my hand very quickly and placed it tentacles around my hand and took the crab. I could see that the occy was biting the crab, but it never bit my hand. The kids were surprised to say the least.

 

A few years ago, a story was published in a magazine about a bloke who had 2 fish tanks. Crabs in one and an occy in the other. The crabs started disappearing but he could not work out how or why, so he placed a motion sensing video recorder in the room.

What it showed was the occy climbing out of the tank during the night, down the side, onto the floor, scamper across the floor and up and into the crab tank. The occy caught and killed a crab, took it back across the floor, climbed into his tank then ate it. 

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@YowieI saw a documentary where they were testing the intelligence of occys and they had footage similar to what you're describing.

They also placed a crap in a screw top jar, placed it in the occy's tank and the occy figured out how to unscrew the jar in matter of seconds.

As for them fitting into tight spaces, the only cartilaginous part of their body is between their eyes and they can fit into/through any space wider than that. 

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10 hours ago, jordy said:

  Great work again Wazza. Can relate to the knife story watched a mate try and dispatch one with a knife and to his shock the large occy ripped it out, it was decided that the occy was too tough for us and we let it escape. Pulled a large weight to shore once wondering what I had hooked up, was a large occy clinging to a long neck beer bottle full of mud would not give the bottle up for anyone.

Hi jordy I wonder if the occi was thinking of making the bottle a home? They are very interesting creatures

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7 hours ago, Green Hornet said:

Hi Waza. Occys give me the creeps too and I still refuse to handle a large one.

The plastic occy for catching crabs was a great idea. My dad used to do something similar, but in a roundabout way. He'd tie a few short lengths of red rag to a length of wire and wave it around in the rockpools to mimic a red crab and coax small occys out of their lairs. Used whole, they were his favourite jew bait.

Hi Pete they give me the creeps as well and I hate it when they grab hold of you!

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6 hours ago, Burger said:

Thanks Waza for a smile on a miserable Sydney day.

I can easily picture the ruckus with the occy and 2 knives!

Hi Stu I've seen them grab the knife off their assailant plenty of times now, but to see one using two knives made me think that their brain must be more complex, considering it was moving towards the water (which it couldn't see) wielding the knives and seemed totally aware of both what was around it and where to go. Smart critter!

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5 hours ago, Little_Flatty said:

Same! I can totally imagine combination of shock, fear of dinner escaping and rolling-on-the-floor-laughter all at the same time! That would be a story for the grandkids, for sure!

I've caught and eaten a couple of occys in my time, but they were comparably easy to handle. Never realised antipasto could be so much hard work!

Thanks Waza for the entertaining and interesting story.

Hi Little Flatty I've never lost the image of the octopus with the knives it was genuinely funny (still is!)

First time I tried eating one it tasted great but was impossible to chew until we discovered marinade.

The ones you see with curled up legs in the fish shops have been 'tumbled' by machine to help with the tenderising process- no curled legs and they're too tough

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2 hours ago, Yowie said:

Another good story there Waza. Occys are smart critters.

 

Quite a few years ago, when the kids were kid size, took the family to the beach at Coledale for somewhere different. The kids wanted to walk along the rock platforms to see what was about, and I spied an average sized occy hiding in the pool. No crabs to be seen.

I looked in the next pool and found a few crabs, so grabbed a black crab and walked back to the occy. I held the crab underwater (the bloody thing kept trying to bite me) about 3 feet from the occy. The occy swam to my hand very quickly and placed it tentacles around my hand and took the crab. I could see that the occy was biting the crab, but it never bit my hand. The kids were surprised to say the least.

 

A few years ago, a story was published in a magazine about a bloke who had 2 fish tanks. Crabs in one and an occy in the other. The crabs started disappearing but he could not work out how or why, so he placed a motion sensing video recorder in the room.

What it showed was the occy climbing out of the tank during the night, down the side, onto the floor, scamper across the floor and up and into the crab tank. The occy caught and killed a crab, took it back across the floor, climbed into his tank then ate it. 

Hi Dave you're a braver man than I am! No way would I be game to feed one like that.

Occi's and crabs love to eat each other with the victor being the larger from what I've seen

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50 minutes ago, Green Hornet said:

@YowieI saw a documentary where they were testing the intelligence of occys and they had footage similar to what you're describing.

They also placed a crap in a screw top jar, placed it in the occy's tank and the occy figured out how to unscrew the jar in matter of seconds.

As for them fitting into tight spaces, the only cartilaginous part of their body is between their eyes and they can fit into/through any space wider than that. 

There's a great doco called "Those Amazing Suckers" where an occi kept in a lab travels each night to a crab tank that it can't see (from where it's own tank is) and takes a crab back to it's own tank for a feed. It even replaces the crab tank lid! Amazing stuff

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Thanks Wazza, Another great fishing tale. I d only you had kept the Occy and used it to choose who won the Grand Final you would have been set mate!!!

Keep them coming...

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2 hours ago, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi jordy I wonder if the occi was thinking of making the bottle a home? They are very interesting creatures

I have found them before inside bottles on the ocean floor.

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2 hours ago, wazatherfisherman said:

The ones you see with curled up legs in the fish shops have been 'tumbled' by machine to help with the tenderising process- no curled legs and they're too tough

The small portable cement mixer is what is used at times. Chuck the dead occy in and let it tumble about for a few hours.

Make sure there is no cement inside :074:

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3 hours ago, Green Hornet said:

@YowieI saw a documentary where they were testing the intelligence of occys and they had footage similar to what you're describing.

They also placed a crap in a screw top jar, placed it in the occy's tank and the occy figured out how to unscrew the jar in matter of seconds.

As for them fitting into tight spaces, the only cartilaginous part of their body is between their eyes and they can fit into/through any space wider than that. 

Hopefully you meant a crab¬†¬†ūü§£

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