Octopi are represented in California by over a dozen species, the most common of which locally inhabit under-rock intertidal regions. Large ones seldom have more than a three-foot spread. Octopi have eyes as highly developed as ours, and a larger and better functioning brain than any other invertebrate animal. Historically they were maligned as 'devilfish.'
In the News~
March 20, 1896 [SBDN]: “While the Larco boys were fishing near Santa Cruz Island yesterday morning, they encountered an experience that will not to be soon forgotten by them. The boys were tending to their nets, when suddenly a large and slimy arm of an octopus was thrown over the bow of the boat. This was quickly followed by a second and a third. The little sloop strained and creaked under the strong suckers, or arms, of the devilfish. The arms were quickly followed by the enormous body of a ferocious sea monster, and the two boys realized that they had a big fight on their hands. The octopus fought stubbornly and made several endeavors to wind an arm about the young men; but they knew the danger of its powerful limbs and kept clear of them. A well-directed blow caught the devilfish between the eyes. His hold on the boat loosened and he would have sank back into the sea had not one of the boys caught him, and by the combined efforts of the two, the octopus was hauled into the boat. The monster is the largest ever seen in the channel, and measures 15.5 feet from the tip of one arm to the other, and 10 feet from his head to the end of the longest arm. The monster is on exhibition at the Larco home on State Street near Boulevard.”
March 20, 1896 [SBDI]: “The devil-fish at Larco’s establishment on lower State Street, was an object of interest to dozens of tourists and others who arrived, looked, and departed in a steady stream. The body of the fish has been skinned, and has somewhat shrunken, but the tentacles still have a stretch of six feet or more, and their cups or suckers are as large as a two-bit piece. Young Larco, while fishing in the shallows near Santa Cruz Island, was surprised to see a waving tentacle appear above the gunwhale. He found upon examination that the devil-fish was fast to his keel. A long gaff, used for landing fish, was used in dispatching the creature, and he was carried home for exposition purposes.”
August 17, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain J. McAfee reports that on two occasions he has seen an octopus during the past week between Avalon and Church Rock that has tentacles over thirty feet in length and would weigh over one ton.”
December 6, 1924 [FDS]: “A 17-foot octopus was caught off Santa Cruz Island, thousands of miles from Wall Street.”