What Colors Do Muskies See? How Muskies Really See the World

Colors may not always be your number one concern when you go fishing, but in case you’re targeting a sight feeder like a muskie, you definitely need to put it into consideration. Depending on how muskies see the world, you’ll be able to customize your lures for maximized opportunities to get one on the hook.

What colors do muskies see? Muskies see all the colors we can see, however, slightly differently. Muskies have rods, which are sensitive to illumination, and cones, which allow them to see color. However, the colors underwater seem different in a more muted way.

Keep reading to know what colors muskies see the best and how you can make use of these facts to utilize your lures the next time you go for a muskie.

How Do Muskies See Color? 

Muskie leaping out of water to illustrate what colors do muskies see

Biologically, muskies have things in their eyes called rods and cones. Rod cells are photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eye that can function in lower light better so they can see the illumination of the lure. Cones respond differently to light of different wavelengths and are thus responsible for color vision. So, muskies can see different colors even in dim circumstances.

How muskies see the color mainly depends on various effects such as:

  1. The intensity of daylight. When the sunlight reflects on the lure, the color looks more vibrant. That doesn’t happen on cloudy days when the colors appear darker.
  2. The clarity of the water (water hue). Water works like some filter on its own, so it changes how the colored lure looks. A red lure in greenish water (lakes that have summer algae) is not the same in bluish water (the clearest waters) or reddish-brown water (waters that have tannic acid), and definitely not the same as it is out of the water.
  3. The depth you’re casting your lure in. the deeper your lure is into the water, the more muted the color will appear due to the natural “filtering” effect of the water.

What Colors Do Muskie Like? 

Since muskies are sight feeders, they get attracted to the colors that imitate their prey. This means that the colors muskies like include black, pink, blue, green, brown, chartreuse, and white. If you look at the fish muskies usually go after, you’ll see they have the same combination of colors.

Black and white lures are underrated when it comes to muskies. However, if you took a look at fish like suckers and bullhead, which muskies feed heavily on, you’ll see that they have either black or white on their body. Muskies can go for bright colors, but that doesn’t mean they won’t bite on black and white ones.

The bright colors are essential in some situations, such as fishing in thick deep weed edges, one of the prime spots to find muskies. Muskies will spend most of their time camouflaging themselves in these areas waiting to hunt some of the fish they feed on. That’s when bright lures come in handy; they can stand out among thick weeds, therefore, catch the muskie’s attention.

Do Muskies See Well in the Dark? 

Muskies can see very well in the dark with minimal light. They have rod cells in the retina of their eyes that can function in lower light better so they can see the illumination of the lure. Aside from their strong vision, muskies also rely heavily on their lateral line and sensors to detect food in darker conditions.

They feed heavily at dusk or dawn when the light is very minimal and they’re more active on starry nights. Naturally, muskies prefer darker waters and they go deeper or seek shade when it’s not dark enough. So they have strong night vision that helps them feed during nighttime or cloudy days. 

It’s even advised to go for muskies when it gets dark, as they’ll be actively seeking prey in the shallow waters and won’t get spooked with the heavy boat traffic of the daytime. You can learn how to troll for Muskies at night here.

Best Colors for Musky Lures 

Most anglers keep using the same lure color because it succeeded in getting them a trophy muskie once, but it’s more complicated. You need to consider factors like water and sky conditions to be able to pick the best colors for a musky lure.

You need to choose your lure color according to how the color translates itself underwater. That means considering the time of the day, the water hue, and the sky condition. 

It can be complicated to search how every color appears in different hues of water, let me make it easier for you with this simple guide:

Morning fishing

If you decided to seek muskies in the morning hours before sunrise, these are the most attractive colors to help you:

  • In clear water (blue hue): Purple, Blue, and Yellow.
  • In stained water (green hue): Orange, Yellow, Red, White, and Black+Orange combination.
  • In muddy water (reddish-brown hue): White, Yellow+Red+White combination, or Orange+Brown+Yellow combination.

But if you’re going for later morning hours starting at 10 AM, you’ll need a different set of colors:

  • In clear water (blue hue): Blue+Yellow+Chartreuse combination, or Chartreuse+Blue combination.  
  • In stained water (green hue): Orange or Blue+Red+White combination.
  • In muddy water (reddish-brown hue): White, or Blue+Yellow+Chartreuse combination, or Red+White combination, or Chartreuse+Blue combination. 

Afternoon fishing

If you’re fishing when the sun is in the middle of the sky, around 12 PM or so, use these colors for maximized chances:

  • In clear water (blue hue): Black+Orange combination or Red+White combination.
  • In stained water (green hue): Blue+Yellow+Chartreuse combination, or Chartreuse+Blue combination.
  • In muddy water (reddish-brown): Black+Chartreuse combination, Purple, or Blue+Yellow+Chartreuse combination. 

Night fishing

Night fishing for muskies can be very effective, and to boost its effectiveness, you need to pick up colors that stand out in the dark. 

  • In clear water (blue hue): Black+Orange combination, or Red+White combination.
  • In stained water (green hue): Blue+Yellow+Chartreuse combination, or Chartreuse+Blue combination.
  • In muddy water (reddish-brown): Purple, Blue, Black+Chartreuse combination, or Blue+Yellow+Chartreuse combination.

Pro-tip: attach silver spinners to your bait when you’re fishing at night, the flash of it catches muskies’ eyes.  

As for colors, you can check out my complete guide to choosing the right color for fishing lines here.

Don’t forget to check out my recommendations for the best Muskie Reels here.

Share this article on Pinterest for your next lure shopping and fishing trip. I promise it’ll be a great help then.

Related Questions 

What Colors Do Pike See Best? 

Pike sees bright colors best. Pike are visual feeders so they tend to be attracted to bright colors such as white, chartreuse, and bright orange. They also get attracted to lures that contrast the surrounding water, go for dark ones on sunny days and brighter ones on cloudy days or at night.

Get more and larger pike with these superb Pike fishing tips.

What Colors are Fish Attracted to the Most? 

Blue and green are the colors fish are attracted to the most. Most fish have color receptors in their eyes that see blue and green better than other colors. They can see more colors with varied intensity if the water is clear enough and the light intensity is high.

Are Muskies active at night? 

Yes, Muskies are active at night. They leave their weed beds and other structures they use for shade in daylight and roam in shallow open waters to feed. Muskies prefer colder and darker waters to seek food. 

Helpful Resources

Color Technology & Muskies

All-Things Muskies

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