Octopus Hole

Date Reviewed:March 2002
Location:Southwest Hood's Canal
Access:Shore dive
Site Description:expansive rock wall
Main Attraction:Possibility of Wolf-eels and octopus

Picture of Octopus
HoleLooking south from Highway 101 at the Octopus Hole dive site. Note the small floating dock just offshore

Over the years I had heard quite a few great things about Octopus Hole. I heard the vis is awesome, Wolf-eels and Octopus were commonplace, and people flocked form hundreds of miles away to visit this gem of the Northwest. Two years ago, a friend and I decided to dive this Northwest diving Mecca. In order to beat the supposed crowds that mob this site on weekends, we took a weekday off and went over to dive the famed "Octopus Hole". I remember being somewhat (OK, very) disappointed. The wall, although immense, was relatively drab and smooth with only the occasional rubble pile and fissure providing sanctuary for some marine critters. To cap it off, we only found one Wolf-eel in two dives. The highlight of that day was being buzzed by a sea bird at 30 fsw - an experience that makes you do a double take and wonder if it is possible to get narced at 35 fsw.

On a sunny calm weekend this March I decided to head back over to Hood's Canal and try this site again. After leaving Seattle at 5:45 AM, I first stopped and did a dive at Sund Rock, which is always a decent dive. I was the first in the water and saw only two other divers while on the wall. After completing a relaxing 83 minute dive at Sund Rock, I headed north to Octopus Hole. As parking area along the highway was full (it was 10 AM), I ended up parking about 100 yards up the road, which is no big deal. I was, however, concerned about having 20 divers on the wall here at once, but thought I would just tough it out. However, I seemed to catch most of the divers between divers and only briefly saw four other divers during a 68 minute dive. Timing is everything!

The main attraction of this site is a large wall - about 20 feet high and over a couple hundred yards long. Everything here is covered in silt from the nearby rivers, so the bottom stirs up very quickly. As there are no real currents here to clear the water, once the bottom is stirred up, it is going to remain that way for a while until it settles down on it's own accord. On this day, vis was about 15-20 feet, compared to about 30 feet a couple miles to the south at Sund Rock. I attribute the decrease in vis to the fact that there were so many divers at this site stirring up the silt.

The wall is relatively smooth, providing relatively little cover for larger marine creatures. However, every so often there are large fissures in the rocks. It is in the fissures that you will find Quillback Rockfish and Lingcod, and if you are lucky a Wolf-eel or octopus. There are also a couple of small shelves with boulder piles that offer decent structure for fish and invertebrates alike.

Along the base of the wall (and sometimes on the wall itself), expect to find cool Black-eyed and Bay Gobies in huge abundance (which by the way are almost impossible to get a camera framer around), Painted Greenlings, occasional Kelp Greenling, more Quillback Rockfish, and schools of patrolling Pile Perch and Striped Seaperch. Leather Stars and Sunflower Stars dot the seascape, as do Burrowing and Red Sea Cucumbers. Brilliant White Tube, Swimming, and Plumose Anemones are readily visible. I even found a California Berthella (which is a nudibranch of sorts). Also check out the massive number of Dungeness Crabs hiding in the silt or scampering around, especially above the wall. In addition to Dungeness Crabs, expect to find a lot of spider and Hermit Crabs.

After diving here again, I think I know why this spot is so popular. First, the shore access is easy. Unlike Sund Rock, you don't have to hike down to it, then do a 200 yard surface swim. Second, it is shallow. The base of the wall rests in about 50 fsw. Third, there is very little current here. I dove this on a huge exchange and noted no current movement at all. And fourth, there is some cool stuff to see, including the possibility of a Wolf-eel or octopus, which is always exciting.

If you want to dive this site, it is located on Highway 101, which runs up the west side of Hood's Canal. The dive site is located just north of Hoodsport. If you are driving north on 101, you will come over a small rise that is heavily wooded. The trees stop as you descend the rise and you will see a small floating dock about 30 yard off shore to your right and a small turnout where you can park. If you are diving here on a nice weekend, there should be an ample number of cars marking this site. I believe this site is just north of mile marker 237. If you need directions, stop in at Hood Sport and Dive or Mike's Dive Shop on your way up - the proprietors of both establishments are very helpful. By the way, Hood Sport and Dive has Nitrox available.

Once you get to the site, you can either carry your gear down to the shore and suit up there, or suit up in the parking area. When you are ready to head for the beach, climb over the guardrail and head for the sudo-stair case to the north. There is also a trail to the south that will take you to the beach, but the staircase makes things MUCH easier. Once you get in the water, finding the wall is easy. Swim to the floating dock, descend on the southern anchor line on the dock, and follow it to the anchor. Once you get to the anchor, note your depth (which should be about 30 feet, but will be affected by the tide) and follow this depth to the south. You should see the wall start about 40-50 yards from the anchor. The wall runs pretty much north-south.

Some final notes - I believe this area is a marine sanctuary, so no harvesting what so ever. Also, there are no facilities at this site - it is simply a beach access point. And finally, there are a number of fresh water rivers in this area, which can really muck up the water during heavy rains. Subsequently, there is usually a coldwater layer on top with marginal vis. Vis usually (but not always) improves once you get under this coldwater layer.

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