The easiest way to spot an octopus is to see it swimming (top photo). They’re not large creatures but they’re quite distinctive when they swim.
If they’re not swimming, one thing to look for is certain fish, such as goatfishes and jacks, just hanging around in a spot for no apparent reason. When these fish are hunting alone, they tend to be more active in probing the rocks and trying to disturb prey. But when they’re hunting with an octopus, they seem more content to let the octopus do the work and snapping up whatever emerges. I’ve found that goatfishes are particularly helpful as an octopus indicator.
A while back, there were videos online of an octopus apparently punching a goatfish. I wasn’t surprised by this. The octopuses I’ve seen don’t seem best pleased by the presence of goatfishes. Part of this might be down to feeling that the goatfishes are not pulling their weight in the hunt. But another factor might be that if goatfishes give away their position, for the octopus that can be fatal.
Octopus is a popular food in Hawaii and has long been so. If I’ve learned to look for goatfish as an indicator of their presence, then no doubt spear fishermen have too. These days, if I see an octopus when anyone’s spear fishing nearby, I don’t do anything to draw attention to it.
In Hawaii, snorkelers get to celebrate Christmas year-round thanks to the Christmas wrasse. I’m not sure why it got that name – it has others – but I suspect it has to do with its colorful appearance. Regardless, I’m sure it would like to join me in wishing everyone a happy Christmas.
The blackstripe coris, also known as the yellowstripe coris, is an endemic wrasse. According to my fish book, John P. Hoover’s The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals, it’s most abundant around the northwestern islands of the Hawaii chain. Around the main islands, mature females are uncommon and males rare.
The fish in the top photo is a large male. It has no black stripes, yellow stripes, or stripes of any kind, because this is one of those species where the male and female look radically different. This male was sparkling green in a variety of patterns. The other photo shows a female, which gives a better idea of why the fish got its name.
The Hawaiian hogfish is an endemic species. Mature fish live in deeper water around the Big Island so juveniles and subadults are more often seen. However, this one is a mature female and, while they’re not commonly seen while snorkeling, they do pop up on a regular basis. They feed on molluscs, urchins, crabs, and stars amongst other things.
Bird wrasses are quite distinctive. The long ‘beak’ is used for winkling out crabs and shrimp from nooks and crannies in the reef. The top photo shows a blue and green supermale, with its lighter green blaze above the pectoral fin. To the right is a more subduedly-colored initial phase bird wrasse, that could be male or female.
These are one of those fish that seem to be in constant motion. I have taken many photos of them where they aren’t in shot by the time I push the button. I got lucky with these two.
A small cleaner wrasse works at removing parasites, dead tissue and mucus from a great barracuda. The service they provide is recognized by larger potential predators, which don’t harm these little blue and yellow fish, even when they go inside the mouth to clean.
Great barracudas are generally mostly silver with black marks on the tail fins and second dorsal fins. However, some great barracudas, such as this one, have black marks on other fins and their silvery sides are mottled with darker markings.