From WeFish blog we want to introduce you to the art of catching or fishing octopus. For this aim, we once again have the opinion and experience of Vítor Ganchinho, who has catch hundreds of octopuses over the years, as well as octopuses that weighed more than usual.
Vítor is from Portugal, and says that in the Setúbal area it’s very common to find these cephalopods. The reasons are that they have a river with a very wide estuary, many areas of marshes and nearby mussels, particularly in Arrábida, where there is a lot of octopus.
Characteristics of the octopus
The octopus is an octopod that can grow up to a meter and a half, soft-bodied, without an internal skeleton like the squid, nor an external one. If you look closely there is a tentacle with a suction cup much larger than the others, it is the hectocotyl, a modified arm that carries the reproductive organ. Regarding its weight, we can consider as an exception the octopus that exceeds 8 kg, but in certain areas many reach 10 kg.
It’s an extremely intelligent animal. Because it has no outer shell or skeleton, it uses its ability to penetrate cracks, holes, etc. It learns to hide from predators and to use objects for cover. Another means of defense is its rare camouflage ability, achieving through its chromatophores to reproduce the colors of the places where it is found, which range from white, to sand and dark brown when it’s on a rock. To mislead its predators, it can also drop ink or wrinkle its body giving it a rocky texture, which helps not only to camouflage itself from predators, but also to hunt for fish and food. Their diet is very varied, and can include live fish, dead fish, crustaceans or invertebrates. It kills its prey by suffocation or bite pressure with its two very sharp teeth.
The octopus has binocular vision, like humans, and also color perception. The ink it releases to confuse its predators has an odor and is composed of melanin, the same substance that colors human hair and skin. Its main predators are man, conger eels, sharks, groupers and especially other octopuses.
Reproduction of the species
In the areas of Spain and Portugal the breeding takes place between the end of September and the beginning of November, with eggs-laying that can reach 200,000. Of these, and due to the number of existing predators, only a small percentage will reach the adult octopus. This is a decisive period in the number of octopuses in a given area, not because of the parents, who inevitably die after the release of their offspring, but because they are left unprotected at a time when they measure only a few millimeters and are vulnerable to attacks of all kinds of fish or starfish. In addition, reproduction occurs at a critical time, with great temporal instability, for example in November there are big storms and many octopuses die. Breeding does not occur at the same time on the other side of the Atlantic, in more tropical countries it can occur in the summer.
The nest of an octopus is basically a corner or rock niche in which the eggs are placed in clusters, hanging from the ceiling, and which are oxygenated and moved by the female by releasing water through her siphon. In this period the females do not feed and die because of starving. Octopuses live between two and, eventually, three years. In good years, with little storm, they reproduce well, which means that in two years we will have hundreds of large octopuses covering the stones.
Fishing for octopus: where and when to find it?
Octopuses also frequent low tide areas, chasing their favorite prey, crabs or fish that are trapped in tidal pools and therefore unable to escape. They are also regular visitors to the mussel areas, which they love. It’s very easy to find in the low coastal areas, at low tide, octopuses resting on the corners of the rock, in darker areas waiting for the arrival of the tide.
The octopus has a special predilection for the shallows, where it can find food more easily, since there is more life and, therefore, more opportunities to eat. In fact, it only goes into deep areas at times when the turbulence of the waters makes it impossible to stay on rocks near the coast. On days with high waves, a lot of sand and stones are washed away, which makes the presence of octopuses in your favorite fishing spots impossible.
At certain times of the year, such as during the breeding season, it’s possible to find stones completely full of octopuses.
There are two fishing spots that are highly pursued: the limits of the stone that lead to the sand, where the octopuses find razor clams, clams, scallops, cuttlefish, etc. And the stone areas with seafood stuck, such as mussels and barnacles. Octopuses find easy food there, and large octopuses find small octopuses. In very remote areas, little known and therefore little explored, it is possible to find incredible concentrations of octopuses, even thousands of them. For that purpose, it helps a lot that they have abundant food in that place.
Fishing for octopus, how to catch it?
It’s a species easy to catch, and although the star modality is Eging, there are several ways to fish for octopus:
For example here in Spain they are caught with a rod whose end has a small net with fish inside. The technique is very simple, it consists of putting the rod in everything that is protected in the corners, the octopus clings to the net and is unprotected outside its hiding place. Vítor says that among Portuguese fishermen the most common form of professional fishing for octopus is to place a row of net cages with fish remains inside. The octopus turns around and enters the cage from above, unable to get out of it. These cages are lifted daily and left in the same place. It should be noted that in Portugal about 10,000 tons of octopus are caught each year.
Traditionally, the octopus was caught with a long cable with several clay jugs, resting on the bottom, exploring the need for the octopus to take refuge in a hidden corner to hunt fish, bivalves or other prey from there. Spearfishing is also famous for catching octopus. The depth to which the animal descends is not great, and therefore, it’s accessible to beginners and novices in this modality. After the harpoon shot, the octopus twists its limbs on the stones so you should always have a hook on hand to remove it from the holes.
As a general rule, in case of attack, the octopus throws its tentacles over everything it can and covers itself. In this way it becomes very difficult for fishermen to separate it from the stone to which it clings tightly.
Material needed to catch them
Egis are used when fishing for octopus, larger than the egis used to catch cuttlefish, from which bright ribbons hang, sometimes with a small fish attached, a horse mackerel, a mullet, something like that. The way to move this lure is the same as that used for cuttlefish, small tugs near the bottom, waiting for a hidden octopus to dash.
A rubber thimble prevents cuts that could be caused by nylon. The angler may use two hand lines, one for cuttlefish and one for octopus. Paint-stained boats reveal the skill of the fisherman, the more black… the better results.
We hope this guide will be useful to you now that octopus fishing season is approaching. We remind you that the information and experience in this post come from Vítor Ganchinho, CEO of Go Fishing Portugal and owner of a magnificent fishing blog.
You can enter WeFish to see hundreds of octopus catches, upload yours, check the best weather conditions to catch them and even buy material to fish the desired cephalopods 🐙. What are you waiting for?