So, what do fish actually see from their underwater world?

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I have noticed a few more anglers along lakes and waterways the past few days. Warmer weather can sure make a difference in how you feel about getting outside.

While watching all the people out fishing, I thought about how we (the anglers) might look from the perspective of the fish. We all know that fish can see up and out of their world, but how do fish see us?

I think every angler has walked along a shoreline at some point in time and had a fish spook away from the bank and zoom off into the depths. It probably saw you, or at least saw movement.

Biologist tells us that fish have eyes similar to humans, but they also have protective film over their eyes so that they can see more clearly underwater. They same principal for why we developed SCUBA masks. Their eyes have rod and cone cells on their retinas, so we know that they can see color as well as in shades of grey, light and dark. All fish have some level of night vision, although some species like walleyes are much better than others at seeing in the dark.

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There are certain chemicals in our eyes that allow us to see colors and in different spectrums. Fish have these same chemicals and other chemicals in their eyes that allow them to see in some ultra-violet frequencies as well.

Most species of fish have eyes set on the sides of their heads. That means they do not have “binocular vision” as we do. Biologists believe that their depth perception is poor and most fish have a semi-blind spot straight ahead of them. To compensate for this, the retina of their eyes is slightly extended. This is where the term “fish eye” lens comes from.

Fish generally have excellent close-up vision, but poor distance vision. I think this is why fish tend to stay near their feeding areas. They don’t move too far away from a steady food source because they simply have trouble seeing their next meal at any distance.

There is the phenomenon of reflectivity at the surface of the water when looked at from below. It looks like a mirror from underneath when looking at an angle. This effect is caused by sunlight and how much light is reflected back from the bottom in shallower bodies of water.

Biologists have a term known as the fish’s “window of vision” to the world above the surface. This is almost directly above them. It is a cone-shaped area of vision where the fish can see through the surface film. The closer the fish is to the surface, the smaller the diameter of the ‘window’. Anything outside the “window” tends to be hidden by the mirror effect.

So, what might we look like from an underwater vantage point? I decided to see for myself once upon a time (and in a little water weather) and used one of my underwater cameras to capture an image fish would see. I snorkeled into position, being careful not to stir up any mud or silt that could cloud the water. I took the pictures that you see with this article. This is what fish see when they are looking up and out at you!

You may have read some fishing magazines and articles about anglers wearing camouflage when they are fishing. If fish can see you, or at least your shape or movement, then it makes sense to blend into your background. Testing this for myself, I think the use of “camouflage”, or at least colors that blend with your surroundings, can help the angler avoid detection and have a better chance at catching the fish.

As a general rule, bright colors on bright days might not be the best things to wear when fishing. If you are fishing in turbid/muddy water, it is not that much of an issue. The fish have the same trouble seeing out of the water as you do seeing in. Think about what you might look like or how the world may appear from the fish’s perspective and I bet you catch more fish.

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