Have you ever wondered what colors do fish see? This is a question many anglers ask. Plus the ability of fish to see colors has been a topic of research. The simple answer is fish can see colors. The colors a fish sees depends on the species and water they inhabit.
The majority of fish have cone cells in their eyes. These are the cells that allow color vision. In addition, the fish must have its brain wired for color vision. Species have various cone cells to see color. What cone cells are present determines the colors a fish can distinguish.
In general, most fish have 2 or 3 cone cells. A few have four cone cell types. The popular gamefish each have specific color vision. We will look at the popular game fish individually.
What Colors Do Bass See?
A largemouth can easily see red and green colors. These two colors are clearly seen by the species. The red is good for shallower and clearer water conditions. The green works better in deeper water with staining present. This is why the green pumpkin color is highly productive in many regions.
Largemouth bass sees dark blue and black as similar colors. These two colors will be interchangeable in most situations. The same applies to yellows and whites. Use the white or yellow in turbid and shallow waters. Go with the blue or black in deeper water or when high contrast is desirable for the water conditions.
The same colors work with smallmouth also. An angler can add in brown and chartreuse with the previously mentioned colors. Smallmouth is more aggressive. They will strike more colors if they mimic natural prey.
Try to match the hatch with smallmouth bass. The greens and browns are good for soft plastic and jigs. Use the black, blue, and brighter colors with reaction lures.
A bass angler will see success using these 4-5 colors when used in the proper water conditions. Adjust the color choices based on water clarity, depth, the color of the bottom, and the sky. In a short time period, you will have the colors dialed in for success.
What Colors Do Walleye, Sauger, and Perch See?
These fish have excellent vision and see the light or bright colors well. The reds, oranges, and yellows are easy for the walleye and cousins. Green is also a very good color for walleye to see and identify.
Walleyes eyes are designed with large pupils. The design allows more light to be collected. This means a walleye will see colors in low light conditions. At night and in deeper water glow colors can help. But a word of caution some glow baits appear as different colors in deeper water.
In contrast, a walleye cannot see UV fluorescent finishes on baits. They likely will not harm your chance but offer no additional benefit.
The blue and violets are seen by walleye under good conditions. Walleye and saugers see these colors usually as black.
Perch a close relative of walleye and sauger can see these colors. They are limited to daylight. The perch do not have the superior low light vision of walleye and saugers.
Chances are if you use the proper presentation and run the correct depths. The color is a fine-tuning aspect for these fish. There will be times the colors mentioned play more of an effect. While sometimes it will matter little which of the colors you choose.
Pike and Musky
When it comes to these toothy fish, contrast is the key. The pike family does have the best color vision in freshwater fish. Yet the fish rely on their lateral lines to find prey.
Pike and musky will hang in the water column. They wait for vibrations and then zero in on the signal. These fish use vision once the prey is close. The contrast makes a better silhouette for the strike.
This is the reason black, red, and orange are popular. These colors provide a better silhouette in different water conditions. Blues and violets will work also in many situations. A fancy paint job with scales and fins rarely helps. When the fish is close enough to see the fine details. They are committed to the strike.
The best option for these fish is a good retrieve and action in the lure. That has a solid contrast to the sky and other conditions. The lure needs to be clearly defined in the water. It comes down to what the fish can or cannot see in the water.
What Colors Do Trout and Salmon See?
Trout or salmon have 4 cone cells. This is more than humans have for color vision. This allows trout to see more color in the UV spectrum. Trout and salmon can see blues and reds well with four cone cells. The water clarity has an effect on colors, so you need to take it into account.
Shallower or clear water trout see red easily. In deeper water blue will be better. Stained waters, black and white may be the best. Stained waters block most of the light spectrum. This is when rod cells are used for vision. Rod cells offer good low vision but do not allow color vision. They are the black and white part of the vision.
The chances are trout will see most colors except the greens. The color green is the color these fish lack vision to see. All other colors will appear correct in shallow clear waters. As the depth or staining increases some colors fade to black. Learn which color is best for the depth and water clarity in the waters you fish.
An experienced angler will see the comparison of colors fish see. Plus what ones are not seen? The less experienced angler needs to learn which color to use. This takes some time. You have to learn which color works in various water clarities and depths. Plus what colors the species sees better. Then add in providing a strong silhouette. Once you achieve these basics, lure selection will be easier and more productive.