Can Fish See Color?

Probably most of us have tried to look through colored glass and discovered how they change the colors around us. For example, when wearing yellow glasses the glass filters the light and everything becomes brighter even when it is already dark outside or when it is cloudy. Do fish have same effects, can fish see color and how does it affect fishing? Find it out from the following article.

Just as glasses filter light for humans, water is the same filter for the fish. The deeper the water or the farther away the fish is from the subject, the stronger the filter effect is.

Colors under water

Water has three main filter tones: blue, green and reddish-brown. They all have a different effect on the fish sightings. Take, for example, a fairly common lure tone – red. Lets see how the red color changes with the color of the water.

Without filter. Can fish see color?
Without filter

Blue filter tone

Blue water filters out the red color, so the lures with that color become significantly darker. The deeper the water, the greater the effect, for example, at 3-4 meters, the red will turn black.

With blue filter
With blue filter

Green filter tone

Green water filters out red even faster, so that already in shallow water the fish will see red color in black.

With green filter
With green filter

Reddish-brown filter tone

The reddish-brown water makes the red much lighter.

With reddish-brown filter. Can fish see color?
With reddish-brown filter

The most universal lure in the picture is the Mepps in parrot colors, where at least one of the tones is visible in different colored water bodies. Black lure with the white spots creates a good contrast also.

In addition to the color of the water, general lighting conditions must also be taken into account, since light affects the intensity of the filter effect. When it is darker outside, then the filter effect is stronger. There are even more factors that influence the filter effect, for example waves and the location of the sun.

Silver lures

The filter effect of the silver lure is also noteworthy. The fishermen have given these lures a common name – silver. But in reality the coatings have a significant difference. Fishermen use „silver“ lures covered with nickel, chrome and genuine silver. The last one, genuine silver, gives a much better filter effect under water than nickel or chrome. The chrome and nickel look nice and shiny in the package, but under water their light effect is quite dim and slightly brownish.

Photo with a filter. Lure on the right is coated with silver. The lure on the left gets dimmer, but silver one remains shiny.
Photo with a filter. Lure on the right is coated with silver. The lure on the left is dimmer, but silver one remains shiny.

Color diffusion according to water depth

As you can see from the graph below, green, blue and purple tones are the ones that do not change their tone even in deep water. White can also be added.

Color diffusion according to water depth. Can fish see color?
Color diffusion graphic

Fishermen fishing with nets have also tried to experiment with different filter effects. They are doing it by coloring the nets with a color that becomes most unnoticeable under water.

Here are some tips and tricks about water and light:

1) In the European seas, the average visibility in the summer is 2-3 meters. In the autumn, visibility can improve up to 10 m, if the storms don’t mix the water. The waters are with a good visibility until May before the algae begins to grow again.

2) Light disappears several times faster in water than in air. In some places, even at midday in the summer, there may be a total darkness at a depth of 30 m.

3) Reflection of light from water surface: only a part of the light that has fallen on the surface of the water reaches the under water. The other part of the light is reflected back. The amount of light reaching under the water depends on the angle of the light beam and the water surface. When the angle is 90 degrees, the light reflected back is the smallest. The smaller the angle of the sun’s rays to the water surface, the less light gets underwater.

4) In many waterbodies, algae can turn all light under water green.

5) Because of the refraction of light rays under water, all underwater objects appear 25% larger and closer. The field of view is also much narrower.

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