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Does Fishing Line Color Matter When Surf Fishing?

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One of the most debated topics amongst anglers, other than which color fishing line is best to use, is whether fishing line color matters when surf fishing.

Ask any fisherman if the color of the fishing line affects their success rate, and you’ll find yourself embroiled in a very interesting conversation.

Does fishing line color matter when surf fishing? The short answer is yes, it does. Whether you believe it increases the number of fish that you catch or not, having a fishing line that is highly visible when surf fishing does matter because you, other people, and birds will be able to see it and not end up entwined in it. It’ll be easier to tell the difference between your lines if you’re fishing alongside other anglers.

Does fishing line color make a difference to the fish? Many fishermen swear that it does and can tell you exactly why it matters and which colors work best for them.

An equal amount swears that it makes no difference whatsoever when it comes to the number of fish you catch.

Continue reading to find out more about the arguments both sides put forward, as well as some interesting facts, and make up your mind about whether you think fishing line color affects your catch rate.

Do Fish See Colors?

This has to be the first thing considered because if fish didn’t see color, there would be no debate. The answer is yes, fish can see color.

There are two different types of cells in fishes’ eyes – rods and cones.

The cones’ photoreceptor cells in the retina can distinguish between different colors during the day.

The rod cells don’t recognize color differences but distinguish between differences in light intensity, which enables night vision for the fish.

Some species of fish have a higher presence of either cones or rods.

Freshwater fish are generally better at differentiating between colors because they tend to have more cone cells.

Fish that live deep in the sea or eat at night have more rod cells.

This means that some fish see color better than other fish. Some fish see color even better than humans do!

The tarpon, for example, is a species that lives in saltwater and freshwater with five cone cells in their retinas, human beings only have 3.

This means that they see color almost 10,000 times more clearly than we do.

So, fish see colors in varying degrees depending on the number of rod or cone cells they have.

Does this mean that they will struggle to see some colors and not others?

Which colors are those? And, what about refraction and the effect water has on color, how do you take that into account? (Do Fish See LineOpens in a new tab.)

Wideopen Spaces has created a great infographic showing how fish see different colored fishing lines.

Their research shows that a clear monofilament line is probably the most versatile.

And that a braided fishing lineOpens in a new tab. is the most visible but is the strongest, so it is a line you’d use.

If you were going after that big fish were being able to reel it in outweighs whether the fish spots the line or not.

Those looking for completely invisible lines would need to choose fluorocarbonOpens in a new tab. fishing lines.

You can download the handy infographic or embed it on your website. (Wide Open SpacesOpens in a new tab.)

Does Water Effect Color?

It is light that affects color in the water, not the water itself.

The water’s color depends on the depth of the water, the weather conditions, the amount of light, and the refraction of light in the water.

So, it is all these things that will affect the color of the fishing line in the water.

The number of cone or rod cells of the particular species of fish will determine whether that fish can see that specific color.

Warm colors like reds, yellows, and oranges have long wavelengths and are the first colors to be absorbed in water.

Cooler colors with shorter wavelengths, like blues and purples, remain visible even in deep water.

Red disappears at about 20-25 feet, and dark blue will be visible as deep as the sunlight reaches.

If you are fishing for shallow-water species, you’ll thus use warmer colored fishing line and dark blue or purple if you’re fishing in deeper waters.

If the water is murky or turbulent, the colors of all wavelengths are absorbed faster.

This means that if you are fishing in clear waters, colors can be used to greater effect than if you’re fishing in rough surf.

In clear water, colors remain more noticeable at greater depths. Colors also become less intense the deeper you go.

For example, a yellow fishing line at 50ft will still be visible to yellow to some fish, but it won’t be as noticeable as it was at 20ft to all fish.

Does The Weather Affect Color?

The weather does affect color because the intensity of the light received from the sun will depend on the atmospheric conditions.

As we know, light has a direct effect on the intensity of a color, so cloud cover or setting sun will impact the visibility of colors.

The fishing line Opens in a new tab.of any hue is going to look very different if used in crystal clear shallow water on a sunny day or in a muddy lake just before dawn.

Various ranges of fishing lines are produced for very specific light and water conditions.

There is a wide variety of colors and types of fishing lines because there are so many variables and combinations of variables at play when you are fishing. (Reel Adventure FishingOpens in a new tab.)

Can The Right Color Fishing Line Have No Color?

There is a variation of different types of fishing lines and different colors for a good reason. Each has a particular benefit and purpose.

The more you fish, the more you will know what type of fishing you enjoy, what your favorite spots are, what your best time to fish is and which fish you’d like to catch.

Before you know it, you’ll have a reasonable collection of different types and colors of a line in your tackle box to suit your preferences.

There are essentially three different types of fishing lines: fluorocarbon, monofilament, and braided.

The monofilament is the most popular as it is versatile and affordable, but each type has avid angling fans who will spend hours telling you all about their favorite fishing lines.

Types of Fishing Line

Fluorocarbon lines

The fluorocarbon line is a relatively new fishing line that is said to remain invisible in just about any water or weather conditions.

These fishing lines also have high abrasion resistance and low stretch and are, as a result, rather pricey.

Their main benefit is their invisibility.

With the same refraction properties as water, this fluorocarbon line is suitable for all water clarities and is said to lead to more bites and more catches because fish cannot see it.

The pink fluorocarbon is particularly popular because the pink tinge renders the line invisible in water immediately while remaining very visible above the surface.

This is a far better option than the plain fluorocarbon lines, which birds don’t see and ca get entangled in as a result.

The last thing you want ever to have is to remove a bird like a Pelican or Cormorant after they’ve got entangled in your line, so this pink tinge to the fluorocarbon line gives anglers the best of both worlds.

They, and the birds, can see the line above the water, and the fish can’t see a thing.

Monofilament lines

Monofilament fishing lines are also meant to be invisible to certain types of fish due to their color.

They’re available in a wide variety of colors and designed to either be harder for the fish to see or the angler to see.

The following is often referred to as a hi-vis fishing line.

Below is a general guide of how different colored monofilament lines can impact your fishing.


This color easy for the angler to see above water, so it’s ideal for muddier waters and allows you to detect bites better. It is even more visible in clear waters.

If you are a line-watcher, then yellow is the color for you. The downside is that it is more noticeable to the fish below if you’re fishing in clear water.

However, maybe being able to easily detect bites outweighs the possibility of spooking fish with a line they can see.


Becomes invisible underwater quicker than other colors but is easily visible to the angler above the water.

Some say that red turns black when it loses its color, so it is only good to use in deeper waters.


Good camouflage underwater. The most commonly used color because it is a good all-round choice for a variety of fishing conditions.


Clear monofilamentOpens in a new tab. is the right choice if you want to make your line invisible to fish. It’s not as ‘invisible’ as fluorocarbon but does still work well.

It also comes in color called Clear Blue, which, like to pink fluorocarbon line, makes it easier to see above the water.

Braided lines

The production of braided linesOpens in a new tab. has been improved recently, and they have increased in popularity despite being more expensive.

It is an excellent line to cast with and is an extremely sensitive lens, so you will feel the slightest little nibble.

It has virtually no stretch and a higher strength-to-diameter ratio than other fishing lines.

Braided lines are more visible in the water and are preferred in deep-sea fishing. The downside to braided lines is that they are challenging to knot.

Multi-colored lines

A major upside to the braided fishing line is that manufacturers have developed what are known as “metered” or “indicator” lines.

Different sections of the colored line are found throughout a spool.

Short sections of the different colored lines of equal lengths allow anglers to count out how much line is in the water, and the colors usually alternate between a low-viz color (dark green) and a high-viz color (chartreuse).

Some have four different colors that repeat every 100 feet (blue-yellow-green-orange) as well as a 2cm black hash mark.

Every 5ft, which makes precision vertical jigging and trolling synch, helps you track and ‘trace’ your line.

And as Clay Norris, a senior product manager at Pure Fishing, says, “It’s fun to fish with!”

Underwater Color Visibility Test

Reel hazardous did an underwater color visibility test using a variety of fishing line types and colors in both clear ocean water and in a dark pond.

They compared the visibility both above and below the water as well as at different depths.

In the clear water, the white line was the least visible both above and below the surface of the water, and the blue line was the most visible under the water.

The green and red were the easiest to see above the water and were visible underwater.

Interestingly, the white was the least visible because many fish are white underneath as well.

In the murky pond water, the green line blended in completely at both shallow and deep depths but was visible above the water.

The white was the easiest to see under the water. Yellow and red were the easiest to see above the water but blended in well underwater.

Green was the most difficult to see underwater. Watch the video of the color tests they did and a second one specifically on the visibility of braid lines.

Video credit: Reel hazardous

The Best Fishing Line For Surf Fishing

Surf fishing conditions are generally rougher than other types of fishing.

Saltwater conditions are tough, and you often have to cast long distances, and, with saltwater fish being generally bigger than freshwater fish, your catch may need some serious fight.

So, with surf fishing, you need a durable and robust fishing lineOpens in a new tab. that is still light enough to cast far.

And due to the more turbulent water conditions, it is more important for the angler to see his line that for the line to be invisible to the fish.

Surf anglers use all of the various types of the line, but many use the good old standard green monofilament because they don’t want a fishing line that is difficult to see and can handle the line easily and tie knots in a flash.

Each of the different types of fishing lines has its benefits, and with time and experience, you’ll find the ones that best suit your fishing style and habits.

Often anglers use a combination of lines and join up the different types.

For example, in clear water, an angler may use fluorocarbon as a leader joined to a braided line by a Double-Uni or Alberto knot.

This way, they get to enjoy the benefits of both lines, invisibility, and strength.

Is The Color of Fishing Line Important in Surf Fishing, and What Type of Line is Best?

When considering fluorocarbon vs braid for surf fishingOpens in a new tab., the color of the fishing line can be important. For clear water, a translucent color like clear or blue is ideal. In murky water, a higher-visibility color like yellow or orange may be more effective. Ultimately, it depends on the specific conditions.

What Do Anglers Say About Fishing Line Color

One of the best sources of learning is, as they say, from the horse’s mouth.

Reading through fishing forums where anglers discuss whether the color of fishing line matters or not will not only give you a range of opinions but also a whole lot of unique tips and tricks you may consider to try out.

On the Pier & SurfOpens in a new tab. website forum, one of the users, BigJim5589, offers some great advice.


It is pretty clear that although there is much debate around whether the color of fishing lineOpens in a new tab. matters or not, especially to the fish, there is enough evidence to show that it does.

Whether it is because the fish can see the line or not or whether the angler can see the line better makes it easier to spot bites from a fish.

Which specific color is best depends completely on the individual angler and their needs in each fishing environment? Just as the different types of fishing lines have their benefits and drawbacks, so do different colors.

In the end, the best color for surf fishing is the color that the fisherman feels the most.

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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