How Do I Spot an Octopus?

By Liz – (Fairhaven, MA)
I’ll be traveling to St. John, USVI in mid-January and would love to see an octopus. Any advice on how to spot an octopus, like where and how to look?


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Galen – Dec 8, 2016 – Tips for Spotting an Octopus

Hi Liz, spotting an octopus can be difficult. But there are some tricks that might help you do it.

First, keeping an eye out for motion on the seafloor is key. They are so good at camouflaging their shape and color that movement is often a good thing to watch for.

But, as you get more familiar with them, you can start to get a sense for their shape, and for what certain parts of them look like.

There are other signs you can look for. Often around an octopus’s territory you will find signs of the things they have eaten, like broken shells, etc. In this YouTube video that is exactly what the guy found that alerted him to looking for the octopus.

Finally, sometimes an octopus will attract a bunch of fish, because it is hunting or feeding, and flushing out easy prey for the fish to get. So if you see an odd assortment of fish grouped around some rocks, that is often a sign of octopus or eels.

Linda – Dec 9, 2016 – Octopus Sighting

Hi, we have been snorkeling St John for 15 years in January and February. We have seen octopus regularly at Hansen Bay, Haulover Bay South, and Caneel Bay (all of which are described in the St John Snorkeling Guide eBook).

The “octopus garden” is a good sign… empty conch shell, clam shell etc… they usually hang out on or under rocks or in a rocky area. They do blend in with the surroundings, but you can notice the eye or eyes.

You have to be patient when you do see one hanging out under a ledge for it to come out. Sometimes they will meander along the rock and coral and sometimes they will missile away!

I was fortunate last year to find an octopus at Haulover in fairly shallow water and he was out and splayed for me (he got big and changed color) but he didn’t bolt away which was unusual. After 30 minutes or more of photographing him I gave up on him and left. Low and behold, when I downloaded the pictures there were TWO, I could see a second set of eyes under his right arm – mating pair!

Shawn – Jan 2, 2017 – Spotting an Octopus

Aloha from Hawaii! One of the best ways I’ve found to spot one while snorkeling in Hawaii is to keep an eye out for a single goatfish (usually the Manybar Goatfish) poking around in the same place on the reef for several minutes – there is usually an octopus in the spot the goatfish keeps going back to. The octopus will flush out smaller animals and both get a meal! Happy hunting!

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