Can Fish See Your Fishing Line?

You’ve had your hook in the water for what feels like forever now, but you’re not getting any bites. Sometimes, you get the feeling that the fish see your fishing line and then purposely avoid you, even if your lure is tantalizing. Is that true, though? Can fish see your fishing line?

Yes, fish can see your fishing line, sometimes more easily than others. The visibility of the line varies depending on its color, the depth of the water, and the clarity. For example, red monofilament line becomes black at more than 15 feet deep, which can make it harder to spot.

In this article, we’ll answer all your most burning questions about whether fish can see your fishing line, including their visual scope of colors and what the best type of fishing line is to use if you want the line to be invisible to fish.

Let’s get started!

Can Fish See Colors? 

If you want to obscure your fishing line from fish going forward, then you must understand what fish can see versus what they can’t. That’s why we thought we’d start by discussing just that.

Fisheyes might look kind of gross to you, but the way they work is not all that different from human vision. In the eye of a fish is a retina that has rod cells. These cells allow for a large degree of sensitivity in lower light. The eye also has cone cells that improve a fish’s temporal and spatial resolution.

When reflected light enters the fish’s eye, it goes through the cornea, into the pupil, and then to the retina. In the retina, the above rod and cone cells make the light into an electrical impulse. Next, the fish’s optic nerve communicates with the brain to create an image of what the fish is seeing. 

All that has you wondering, can fish see colors? They certainly can! It’s their cone cells that are responsible for creating a difference from one hue to another. Granted, not all fish species have cone cells, so for them, they could not see colors. Other species have but a few cone cells, so their range of colors is limited.

Yet some fish have so many cone cells that their eyes feature double cones. For them, visualizing ultraviolet light is no issue. 

Do Fish See Your Fishing Line?

Now that you know that fish can see colors, you’re wondering if that fancy colorful monofilament fishing line you bought will really make a difference. Won’t the fish be able to easily spot the line and then dodge it?

Perhaps, but it’s not quite as cut and dried as that. As we touched on in the intro, a variety of factors determine whether your fishing line is easily spotted by the fish swarming the lake or river, so let’s talk about those factors now. 


The color of your fishing line matters a lot in how easily visible it is. As a beginner angler, you might make the erroneous mistake of assuming that bright hues such as red or pink are too attention-grabbing, so you don’t buy lines in those colors.

These bright colors are quite vivid on land indeed. Even on the water’s surface, a red fishing line is going to stick out like a sore thumb. Remember though, you don’t fish on the surface of the water. You fish several feet deep, and it’s when submerged that colorful fishing line can surprise you.

For example, pink fishing line, if submerged in water, becomes very hard to see. Enough divers have reported this after accidentally getting tangled up in pink fishing line. Although fish aren’t gifted with speech to tell us whether they can see pink fishing line, since their eyes are similar enough to human eyes (at least to a degree), we can assume that if we don’t see pink fishing line in deep enough water, that fish cannot either.

Red fishing line has the same effect when in deep water, probably because red and pink are in the same color family. Give your red fishing line a bit of time to sink and it will become hard to see unless you’re looking at your fishing line over the surface of the water (such as from a boat or a dock). Fish don’t have that vantage point! 


How clear is the water in which you’re fishing? That too makes a big difference in the visibility of the fishing line. 

In crystal-clear waters, the above effects will still happen to your colorful fishing line as it sinks, but it might be somewhat easier to spot since the water is so clear. If the water is greener than blue due to algae, then green fishing line is a smart choice.

That’s why so many fishing line manufacturers always make their line somewhat greenish even if the color is supposed to be red or blue. Green acts as camouflage in green water. The line might as well be translucent, it’s that difficult to see. 

However, you cannot use green fishing line in clearer waters. It’s too easily noticeable.  

In muddy waters, yellow monofilament line will be your best friend. The yellow will blend right into the brownish, greenish depths of the water so it’s like it’s not even there. In clear waters though, yellow is the worst color to use. Yes, even more so than green. 

Clear monofilament is your best choice if you can see the water clear to the bottom. It’s invisible through and through so fish won’t notice it. 


The depth of the water is among the most important factors in how visible your fishing line is. The deeper the line is in the water, the more the color can change. 

Since we just talked about it, let’s use green monofilament line as our first example. At a depth of five feet max, the line looks about the same shade of green as it did on land. In waters that are 15 feet deep, the green line can turn two shades darker to a muted forest green.

Once the fishing line is more than 15 feet in the water, it’s very dark forest green. Is that invisible to fish? In green water, maybe, but the dark line color could make it easier to spot in other conditions.

Red monofilament line turns darker in deeper water too. It’s bright red at depths of five feet, then it becomes gray at a depth of 15 feet. The line will then look like a very deep, dark red before turning black at depths of over 15 feet. 

Blue monofilament line, which we have not talked about yet, creates the opposite effect. At depths of five feet, the line color is bright blue. By the time the line sinks 15 feet deep, it’s a very pale shade of blue that can blend in well in clear waters. Sink the fishing line more than 15 feet and the blue line now looks white. It won’t be nearly as easy for fish to spot then! 

Fluorocarbon line is tinted yellow, although it’s not the same as yellow fishing line. Its color disappears the deeper it gets, becoming nearly white at depths of more than 15 feet. 

Clear monofilament, which we touched on earlier, is translucent no matter its depth. Thus, clear monofilament, fluorocarbon line, pink monofilament, and blue monofilament line are your four best picks if you want your fishing line to look invisible deep in the water. 

Final Thoughts

Fish have a better visual field of color than we give them credit for. Knowing this can help you determine which color fishing line to equip for a successful day of angling. 

For clear water, you need fishing line that blends in, such as clear monofilament and pink monofilament. 

At depths of more than 15 feet, blue monofilament line becomes white, as does fluorocarbon line. Even red monofilament is harder to see deeper in the water. If the turbidity of the water is higher, then use yellow or green line. 

Although this is a lot to remember, by selecting the right color fishing line, you can ensure that fish won’t be able to spot the line and flee! 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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