The Blue-Ringed Octopus That Nobody Wanted

Ok, now here is a random but true story. It happened a long time ago when I was a young boy. It must be around 20-25 years ago but I remember the event well. I guess it’s funny how some memories stay locked in your mind, clear as day, while others get washed away. Such is life I guess!

So back to the story. My Dad had taken my sister and I out for an afternoon fishing adventure. I am not sure why he choose the location of Malabar but we did live in the Eastern Suburbs at the time. It was probably a well know spot for good fishing, or maybe it just had good access and parking. Who knows. But what happened on that fishing trip was quite remarkable.

We ended up fishing off the rocks at what seemed to be an old boat ramp with the water being relatively calm. Even though the afternoon is one of the better times to fish we were not having much luck. Maybe it was the bait we were using. Maybe it was the fact that my sister and I were quite young – under 10 I think, so we would not have been able to cast far. But then again Dad may had occasionally been casting for us.

So it was getting later and Dad was saying that we should get going. I think we only had one or two small fish in the bucket, so it was a pretty uneventful fishing trip. Nevertheless I went for another cast.

I remember that it was a dud cast – with my short height and limited strength majority of them were. So I started reeling it in. Slowly of course just to see if I could encourage any fishies near us to jump on for a bite. However then it seemed to get stuck.

As I was trying to reel it in more I thought ah damn I have a snag. We had been getting a few of them this time around and I think Dad was getting over cutting the line and reattaching another hook. So he came to my aid and moved closer into the water trying to pull the line up to release the snag. At the same time I was struggling to reel it in.

Then all of a sudden something seemed to give. The snag has been released, was my initial thought. However then my Dad started screaming “Stop, stop!”

The next thing I know dad is holding the line with something attached to it. It looked like a black rock or seaweed. But as soon as we all caught a glimpse of it, the black weedy looking thing revealed its true identity. In a flash the black spongy thing activated its blue rings and we could see that it was in fact a Blu-ringed octopus. One of the deadliest sea creatures in Australia’s waters.

Blue ring octopus

We were all taken back and Dad then realised how close his hand was to the deadly animal. I too stopped shaking my rod around to prevent it from being flung into Dad or us. Wondering what we should do, Dad cut the line but did not dare go near the hook in the creature. One sting can be paralysing and cause rapid death. That’s when Dad had a great thought about taking the then dying animal to the hospital. He thought that their may be a special department that could extract the venom and be used to create anti-venom. After all this creature was going to die with the hook lodged in its body so we might as well put it to some positive use.

We ended up scooping the blue-ringed octopus into an old ice-cream container and took it to the nearest hospital. After having several discussions with staff and showing them the amazing catch we were directed to the poisons unit. Each time we opened the lid of the container the octopus would reveal its blue rings as a warning mechanism to scare of predators. When it calmed down the blue rings dissipated and it simply looked like a normal black octopus. But when it flared its colours they were a bright electric blue!

Unfortunately no-one at the hospital wanted to take the dying creature as they explained that a third party company provided their anti-venom and it was produced in a controlled environment. There was no use for the little critter and we were not advised of what to do with it.

So we did the only thing that we could… We ended up taking it to show and tell at school so that others could peer into the ice-cream container and see the deadly creature flare up. After all if this is the only time you ever see this creature in your life you should consider yourself lucky.

Thinking back this was probably a bit cruel but we were stuck for alternatives. I guess we could have killed it and disposed of it sooner than keeping it alive simply for show and tell, but how do you kill such a deadly animal? If a part of it flung at you and stung you as you tried to kill it, bye bye to you. If we put it back in the water where we found it another fisherman could have accidentally stood on it. We tried to do the most responsible and thoughtful thing with the blue ringed octopus that nobody wanted.