Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Octopus Hole Conservation Area

WAC 220-303-040: " 'Octopus Hole Conservation Area' is defined as those waters, tidelands, and bedlands of Hood Canal within a line projected due east from the western shore of Hood Canal on latitude 47° 27' 01" N for 200 yards, thence southerly 628 yards parallel to the high water mark to latitude 47° 26' 40" N, thence due west to shore. Effective since 5/1/2004.

(Note: this is the same map as used for the Sund Rock CA)


Links to other imagery about this site

126kb, 620x400 pixels
A view of the northern end of the area, taken from shore due west of the area's northern edge and facing SE.

Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Closed  
Trout Closed  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Closed  
Unclassified Closed  
Commercial Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Closed  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Closed  
Unclassified Closed  


Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal None None
Subtidal 32.59 13.19
Total 32.59 13.19


Prominent and unique features

The Octopus Hole Conservation Area is one of three marine reserves protecting rare rocky habitat in southern Hood Canal. Unlike the surrounding mud and sand habitat of the steep-walled fjord, Octopus Hole contains a subtidal bedrock outcropping that extends from the northern perimeter of the reserve south several hundred meters and outside of the reserve boundary. The rock habitat extends from as shallow as 15 feet (mllw) to as deep as 65 feet. Much of the habitat is simple in complexity but in a number of places, fissures, boulders, and ridges provide crevices for a variety of marine life to hide in. Much of the habitat is covered in bladed kelps such as Laminaria saccharina and foliose red algae to a depth of 30 feet.

The shoreline, which is not part of the reserve, consists of a mixture of gravel, pebbles, cobble, and boulders. These substrates continue into the intertidal zone but then give way to finer sediments such as sand and mud.

Description of fish, bird, and mammal resources at the site

Copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) is the dominant fish species inside the Octopus Hole Conservation Area followed by striped seaperch (Embitoca lateralis) and pile perch (Rhacochilus vacca). Other fish species that are common at the site include lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), wolfeel (Anarrichthys ocellatus), blackeye goby (Coryphopterus nicholsii), quillback rockfish (S. maliger), and painted greenling (Oxylebius pictus).

As the name implies, giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) can be frequently observed at the Octopus Hole Conservation Area. They are frequently observed in dens made in the fissures of the bedrock or in cavities in the mud made below solitary boulders. During the fall, divers can observe individual octopuses guarding egg masses deposited on the ceilings of octopus dens. Other predominant invertebrates at the site include red sea cucumbers (Parastichopus califorinicus), red sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus), sunflower seastars (Pycnopodia helianthoides), and orange sea cucumbers (Cucumaria miniata).

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are commonly observed at the site. Seabirds including pigeon guillemots (Cepphus columba) and commorants can be observed at the site.

Programs in place to manage the site

WDFW regulations prohibit recreational and commercial fishing at the Octopus Hole Conservation Area, and WDFW manages the site as fully-protected marine reserve for non-tribal citizens. The taking of all species of invertebrates and fishes is prohibited by WDFW regulations.

Volunteer efforts are very important at this site. An active dive community uses the site with some people diving it regularly on a weekly basis. The volunteers have provided signage and onsite observations of activities in the site. They have contacted WDFW regarding potential problems and changes at the site.

The public upland access to the site is from the highway right-of-way where it extends into the intertidal.

The enforcement of the harvest restrictions is relegated to the Enforcement Program of WDFW. Information on the site boundaries and restrictions is found in WDFW's Sport Fishing Pamphlet and formal regulations are published at the State of Washington's Administrative Code available on the state's web site. The site is marked on shore by prominent signs developed and maintained by the recreational diving community. In addition, WDFW is developing specific pamphlets describing each of its marine reserves.

WDWF scientists include the Octopus Hole Conservation Area in their marine reserve monitoring efforts. The site is visited several times per year when the scientists perform a census of the fish living on the two southern rocky habitats. During these surveys, all fish are identified, counted, and measured. The areas of the rocky habitats have been measured so fish densities can be assessed and compared to previous surveys or other areas.

Issues of concern

The southern end of Hood Canal has been subject to low dissolved oxygen events. In 2002, the dissolved oxygen content decreased to very low levels that were incapable of supporting many forms of marine life. Sessile organisms died and mobile organisms underwent major behavioral changes at a number of sites including Octopus Hole. Volunteers notified WDFW and department divers surveyed the lower Canal to determine the extent of the problem. The Washington Department of Ecology is investigating the contributing factors (oceanography, enrichment of southern Hood Canal, weather patterns, etc.) to the low dissolved oxygen event and indications are this phenomenon may be a periodic event plaguing the waters of southern Hood Canal.

The uplands bordering the reserve are in private ownership. When the reserve was created a 100-foot zone was created offshore of the ordinary high water mark in order to allow for harvesting activities by the landowners. This was publicized in local papers, and fishers (not necessarily the landowners or their guests) were fishing the perimeter of the conservation area. The site was modified to include all waters from the outboard line to high tide in 2004.

Members of the Skokomish Tribe actively fish the shores and waters of southern Hood Canal. Occasionally, these treaty fishers will use gill nets that drift through the reserve or are anchored from the reserve's shore. These and other fishing activities are guaranteed by court mandates and there has been no cooperative agreement between state and tribal managers to limit tribal fishing in the marine reserves in southern Hood Canal.

Performance measures

  • The number of divers and volunteers who visit and work at the site.
  • The continued presence of a diverse fish community.
  • Increasing or sustained abundances of copper rockfish.
  • Increasing and sustained large individual sizes of copper rockfish.