Octopus fishing takes place in saltwater locations within Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. The common Atlantic octopus is most prevalent in these waters, and like all octopi, they have eight tentacles and sucker pads on each to grip their prey. Off the west coast of Florida, octopi are known as "bait stealers" and often caught on accident by Florida anglers. Female octopi mature at two pounds and males at three-and-a-half pounds, though, octopi have the potential of reaching a weight of 55 pounds in Florida waters.
The common Atlantic octopus lives in sea grass beds, rubble and reefs within Florida. They are typically found at depths of 75 feet, and are able to change color, shape and pattern to match their surroundings. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the common Atlantic octopus has a dark reddish body with dark edges around the sucker pads. Each arm of the octopus is between three and four times the body length. This octopus is not considered endangered.
Clearwater and Sarasota have high concentrations of octopi, as do the Florida Keys. Octopi are fished within the coral reef systems of Florida, where they swim in more shallow water. In Clearwater, octopi are often caught in the fall months, between September and November. Anglers fishing the tropical, warm waters of the Gulf and the Keys use weighted line and octopus bait to nab these creatures.
Bait and Tackle
Octopi in Florida feed on crabs, crayfish and bivalves, such as mussels and clams. Florida anglers use nets to catch crabs for bait, and cut chunks of bivalves to place on their hooks to catch octopi. Weighted line is also used as octopi are bottom dwellers that skirt along the ocean floor. Online tackle stores, such as Tyee Tackle (www.tyeetackle.com), sell lures and plastic bait that are used for octopus fishing. The "Five-Inch Maple Leaf Series Hootchy" and "4.5-Inch Squirt" are used by Floridian other Atlantic Ocean anglers to catch octopi.
Removing the Hook
Once an octopus is on the hook, removing it takes precision and caution. Octopus are known to use their suckers to grab hold of human arms and hands as they are being removed from the hook; therefore, Florida anglers use thick, durable gloves during this process. Octopi are cooked for human consumption, and are a main ingredient in Japanese-inspired cuisine. Octopus can also be eaten raw in sushi-type meals.
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