Chris Rushton was on board the Charter vessel Anna III when he came across the bizarre find three miles off the coast of Jersey. The Wiltshire-based fisherman latched onto the huge 18lbs common octopus when travelling past Corbière for a work trip, “wowing” everyone as it was hauled on board. Tony Heart, the skipper aboard the Anna III, said: “It took quite an effort to bring it to the top as it was like a dead weight at 18lb, which is one of the largest of its species.
“We unhooked it, weighed it, photographed it and returned it alive to the water.”
Mr Heart explained that these creatures used to be very common in the mid to late 60s, but noted that most are thought to have died out due because of an extremely cold winter in 1962/63.
He added: “I have been a charter skipper in Jersey for over 30 years and have only ever seen one other in all this time.
“This was about three years ago and it was the size of the palm of your hand. It was a privilege for me and all on board to see such a magnificent creature.
“The suckers on it were as big as 50 pence pieces.”
Mr Rushton’s catch has been described as a rare example of a common octopus “nearing maximum size” by Paul Chambers, head of the Government’s Marine Resources Department.
Mr Rushton told the Jersey Evening Post: “I had a day off and decided to go fishing, which I do a lot of back home.
“I didn’t think it was an octopus when we first hooked it and when it came up out of the water everyone went ‘wow’.
“Including the legs, it was a good couple of metres. We weighed him, took a quick picture and returned him safely to the water, where he dived back down.”
Common octopuses usually have a maximum mantle length of 20 – 30cm and an arm span of around one metre.
But the enormous octopus caught was roughly four times the size of an average octopus catch landed by the commercial fishing fleet in Jersey each year.
Mr Chambers said: “When we get this type of report, especially of one this size, the question is always whether it is the start of something”.
But he added that there was “no obvious sign” the species would be returning to Island waters “in large numbers”.
While they are mainly found in the Mediterranean and the warmer parts of the Atlantic, the UK population exists mainly to the south and west of the British Isles.
They tend to live in rockier areas and in shallow water that is under fifty metres deep.
In May 2019, an octopus with a tentacle span of up to 10ft was found off the coast of Devon
Josh Perkes, the fish merchant from Brixham who bought the huge creature, said: “I am 6ft 2in tall and the tentacles on this were more than 5ft long – which means that its tentacles in the water would have had a span of 8ft to 10ft.
“They don’t sting. But they do have a beak – like a parrot – and they could bite.
“This one was caught by one of the beamers in the channel.”