What Fish See


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Seeing Through the Eyes of a Fish, 2 Tips to Catch More Fish.

We humans tend to view things just one dimensionally through our own eyes or the way we imagine everything should look to us. If only we could see through the eyes of a fish, we could understand a lot more about our quarry and catch more fish! With the help of scientific knowledge, we can now imagine how to look through the eyes of a fish, or at least understand how fish see what we have to offer them, including artificial light sources from underwater fishing lights. The following tips should no doubt help you catch more fish and understand how fish see and why they often refuse our baits and lures or wildly go after lures and baits that have the fish-attracting power of underwater fishing lights.

1. Choosing the right lure colors

Lure colors vary from crude oil black to bright neon, ‘Vegas style light colors that stop you in your tracks and then draw you in as if memorized by a mythical spell. As anglers, we often choose lure colors based on how we see them instead of how the fish see them. Did you know fish see differently than humans? We humans cannot see as many light spectrums (frequencies) as fish. Fish see the standard light frequencies that we see as well as infrared and ultraviolet frequencies (UV).

The standard “visible” light spectrum for humans is 700 nanometers (abbreviated nm) to approximately 400 nm and known as ROYGBIV, which stands for (R), orange (O), yellow (Y), green (G), blue (B), indigo (I), and violet (V). The higher the frequency the deeper it will travel in the water column. In nanometers, lower numbers have higher frequencies of light that penetrate the water column deeper than higher frequencies of light. For example, Red 700 nm, orange 630, yellow 550, green 500, blue 450, violet 400 represents the spectrum of light that penetrates shallowest to deepest. Standard light is pure white, but shined through a prism the light separates into the individual colors above. The absence of all frequency of light is black. Black, technically is not an actual color, as it has no frequency. Because fish see ultraviolet light, (UVA) which is just beyond the violet frequency at 400nm to 320 nm, it can penetrate to depths greater than 500 feet. Scientists have proven that many species of fish, especially salmonoids, use UVA light to find their prey. Ultraviolet light’s main source comes mainly from the sun and to a lesser degree, other stars. Ultraviolet light causes some objects to glow, or become “fluorescent” upon contact. Molecules in the object gain energy on contact with UV light and then release the energy in the form of visible light. This glow is what some fish look for when searching for food.

This information can help anglers in many ways. Choosing lures for different depths or presentation is easy if you can remember the ROYGBIV chart. Since red is the first color to disappear or turn black in the water column and violet is the last color, you should choose colors based on the depth you plan to fish and amount of available light. You should also choose to fish with underwater fishing lights that create an artificial light source that attracts fish to your offering. The most powerful underwater light is the UV Trophy Torch. The UV Trophy Torch does not seem bright to the human eye because its light source emits a wavelength of light we cannot see. As seen by the illustration above, UV penetrates the water column to as much as 500 or more feet, depending on water clarity, plankton bloom and intensity of the UV light. UV rays come from our sun, as well as stars throughout the galaxy. Unlike a standard light source, the UV light will travel horizontally underwater just like the sun's UV rays travel vertically through the water column. In other words, your UV Trophy Torch, Diamond Light & Glow Light Wand will produce UV light waves that will travel in all directions underwater. That is the power of using UV light and lures that reflect UV light -- fish can see it from great distances.

Armed with this knowledge, savvy tackle manufactures have incorporated UV enhancing materials into their color dies to create better, brighter lure colors that fish see from greater distances. You can also use this science to your advantage and learn to choose lures enhanced with UV “brightener” or “enhancer.” To do this you can artificially produce a visible UV light with a black light. While the black light does not perfectly match the UVA spectrum, it comes close enough to the light spectrum we humans can see.

You should also choose colors based on your presentation. Contrast can be a powerful way to attract fish. Also, consider that each lure presentation actually has three presentations at once. Since fish can see up, down and horizontally, your color choice can look different depending on the amount of light that reaches the area of lure directly in line with light frequencies. As an example, if you were for halibut fishing in shallow water and the bottom was light colored sand, a black lure on the bottom would create a contrast for a fish looking down. It would also create a contrast if the fish were looking up, with the light shinning down. Horizontally the black would blend into the water but still create contrast. Therefore, I choose lure colors based on my intended presentation to maximize their ability to be easily seen by fish.

Before choosing lures and even flies, I use a AA battery-powered black light to examine how the lure colors reflect UV. To see the effects of this powerful color-selecting tool, put the black light close to the lure and watch for a glow-like appearance. For best results turn out the lights and pick the lures that glow super bright. It should also be noted that any glow lure enhanced with glow pigment will reflect UVA light. Glow lures have chemical compound that stores light and releases it until gone, giving the lure an artificial light source. While speaking at fishing clubs I often ask anglers to bring in their tackle boxes. With lights turned out, I can usually pick out 3 or 4 out of 5 of most anglers’ favorite lures. Lures not picked are always dark and used for special light conditions or presentations. Using a UV enhanced lure also makes it easy to take advantage of all three possible lure presentations because the lure will reflect light making it visible to the fish at all angles.