River Cottage Australia

Tips For Coastal Foraging

One of the fantastic things about living close to the coast is that you’ve always got a free feed at your fingertips – if you know what you’re doing.

Here are Paul West’s tips when foraging for Octopus, Lobster, and Mussel.


  • On the South Coast of NSW, Paul was hunting for the Octopus Tetricus or “Gloomy Octopus”. Other octopus species found in Australian waters are the Octopus maorum; “Maori Octopus”, Octopus pallidus; “Pale Octopus” and the Octopus australis or the “Southern Octopus” - the most common species.
  • When hunting in coastal lakes, look for the tell-tale signs of the octopus’s nest; it’ll be littered with the shells of its prey.
  • The nest will be one or two holes in the sand.
  • You’ll be able to see a pinky-orange tinge of the octopus’ head inside the hole. Using snorkelling gear is the best way to spot the octopus.
  • There are two main ways of catching the octopus; by hand or with a pronged spear. If you’re catching by hand, make sure you’re with someone with local knowledge; don’t put your hands into holes if you’re unfamiliar with the area. If you are familiar with the area or are with someone who is, you can catch the octopus by reaching into the hole and grabbing the head of the octopus and pulling it out of the hole. Turning the octopus upside down will prevent it from wrapping its tentacles around your arm.
  • A safer method would be to use a spear and look for the octopus with a snorkel and mask.
  • To dispatch the octopus, put your fingers under the flap of its head and turn inside out; this is the quickest and most humane method…

The recreational bag limit in NSW for any species mentioned above is 10 per day comprising any single species or a combination of listed grouped species. Check with your local fisheries authority in your state.


  • Seek local knowledge on where to find lobster in your coastal area.
  • Lobster, also known as rock lobster or spiny lobster, crayfish or saltwater crayfish, is a crustacean found in the Southern Hemisphere is not a “true” Lobster; the difference being “true” lobsters, found in the northern hemisphere have large claws containing significant amounts of meat and have smaller antennae than the rock lobster found in the southern hemisphere.
  • There are 4 main types of rock lobster found in Australian waters;
  • Eastern Rock lobsters (Jasus verreauxi) are found from the NSW - Queensland border to Bass Strait and the north east coast of Tasmania but are mainly caught off NSW.
  • Southern Rock lobsters (Jasus edwardsii) are found from Geraldton, WA, south to Coffs Harbour, NSW, including around the Tasmanian coast, but are caught mainly off SA.
  • Western Rock lobsters (Panulirus cygnus) are endemic to Australia, they are found from Shark Bay to Albany, WA.
  • Tropical Rock lobsters (Panulirus ornatus and other Panulirus species except P.cygnus) have the widest distribution, from Margaret River, WA, around the northern coast of Australia down to the Central Coast of NSW, although they are mainly caught in Torres Strait.
  • In NSW, it is legal to catch lobster by hand but it is illegal to catch lobster using scuba equipment.
  • The bag limit is for the Eastern and Southern Rock Lobster is 2 in total in any combination and the size limit for the Eastern is Min. 10.4cm, none over 18cm. For the male Southern rock lobster it’s a minimum of 11cm and the female a minimum of 10.5. Check with your local fisheries authority in your state.
  • Rock lobsters like to live under ledges and rock crevices. Find a ledge that has about a 30 to 60 cm gap at the base.

Grabbing them is a little tricky; the best way is to try to get them from a side angle and not front on as they’ll retreat and be harder to trap.


  • Seek local knowledge on where to find mussels in your coastal area.
  • Blue mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) or black mussels as they’re also known, are a saltwater species and grow wild in intertidal waters to depths of around 20m, often in dense clumps, attached by coarse rope-like ‘beards’ (byssal threads) to exposed reefs, rocks and jetty pylons.
  • Green Mussels (Perna canaliculus), are available commercially in Australia but are imported from their native New Zealand waters.
  • Because mussels are filter feeders, make sure that if diving for them, it’s done so in an area known for clean, unpolluted water.
  • It’s a good idea to dive at low tide so you don’t have to dive so deep as the bigger ones are generally at the bottom.
  • Watch the current and make sure you know the waters or are with someone who does.
  • In NSW, the recreational bag limit for Mussels is 50 per day per person but check with your local fisheries authority in your state or territory.
  • Mussels are high in protein and omega 2 fatty acids as well as anti-oxidant, selenium.
  • Live mussels should be consumed as soon as possible. They can however be stored in a container, covered with a damp cloth and kept in the refrigerator but make sure the covering remains damp. Before cooking, discard any shells that are open and don’t close when tapped or gently squeezed.


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