What Colors Do Walleye See Best?

What Colors Do Walleye See Best? A Guide to Their Day and Night Vision

Walleye has captured the hearts of countless fishermen and women around the world. Their striking appearance and elusive nature make them a challenging yet rewarding catch. But to outsmart these clever creatures, you need to understand their vision better. After all, knowing what colors they perceive best during the day and night can be the key to unlocking fishing success like never before! Let’s uncover the secrets of what colors walleye see best.

Walleye see best in shades of green and yellow during the day, with a preference for high-contrast colors. At night, they rely on movement and contrast, making glow-in-the-dark, white, and silver lures effective choices.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll dive deep into the fascinating topic of walleye vision and explore how their keen eyesight plays a pivotal role in your fishing success. You’ll discover how their eyes work, what colors they can distinguish in different lighting conditions, and how you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Let’s get started!

 How Walleye See: The Basics of Their Vision

Before I delve into the colors that walleye see best, it’s essential to understand the basics of their vision. As with any species, walleye’s eyesight plays a crucial role in their survival and behavior. So, let’s take a closer look at how these remarkable fish see the world around them.

Anatomy of a Walleye’s Eyes

Walleye possess eyes that are specifically adapted to their underwater environment. Like many other predatory fish, their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, giving them a wide field of view. This setup allows them to spot potential prey and predators in various directions, ensuring their survival in their natural habitat.

Additionally, walleye have large, round pupils that can adjust quickly to changes in light intensity. This feature is particularly advantageous in low-light conditions, such as dawn and dusk, when walleye are most active and hunting for food.

Photoreceptors and Color Perception

Just like us humans, walleye rely on specialized photoreceptor cells in their eyes to perceive colors. These photoreceptors are of two types: rods and cones.

  • Rods: These cells are responsible for night vision and detecting motion. They are highly sensitive to low levels of light, making them crucial for walleye when they venture out during the nighttime hours. However, rods are not capable of distinguishing colors, so walleye’s color perception at night is limited.
  • Cones: Cones, on the other hand, are responsible for color vision. While walleye have fewer cones than humans, they can still perceive some colors during the day when there is sufficient light. This ability helps them differentiate between objects and prey in their environment.

Interestingly, walleye have a higher concentration of rods in their retinas compared to cones. This adaptation means they excel in low-light conditions, which is why they are often more active and easier to catch during dawn, dusk, and cloudy days.

Let’s move on to the exciting part—what colors do walleye see best during the day and night?

 The Daytime Vision of Walleye

During the day, when the sun is shining and the waters are clear, walleye rely on their color vision to locate prey and navigate their surroundings. Understanding how walleye perceive colors during daylight hours can help us choose the most effective lures and increase our chances of a successful catch. Let’s take a closer look at what colors walleye see best during the day:

The Impact of Water Clarity: Water clarity plays a significant role in determining how well walleye can see colors during the day. In clear waters, sunlight can penetrate deeper, allowing walleye to perceive a wider range of colors. On the other hand, in murky or stained waters, the sunlight is scattered and absorbed, reducing the color spectrum visible to the fish. Therefore, in clear waters, walleye’s color vision is more pronounced, and they can distinguish colors with greater accuracy.

Visible Spectrum for Walleye: Walleye have a preference for certain colors, and understanding their visible spectrum can guide us in selecting the right lures. While their color vision is not as diverse as that of humans, they are particularly sensitive to shades of green and yellow. These colors stand out more prominently in their underwater world.

Green: Walleye can easily detect shades of green, ranging from light to dark. This is because the green color spectrum penetrates water better than others, making it highly visible to the fish. Lures with green hues can be highly effective in clear waters during the day.

Yellow: Similar to green, walleye have a keen eye for yellow. Lures with yellow accents or even entirely yellow-colored lures can be incredibly attractive to walleye, especially when the sun is shining brightly.

Chartreuse: This color, a vibrant blend of green and yellow, is like a beacon in the water for walleye. Its high visibility makes it an excellent choice for lures, especially in clear waters and during sunny days.

It’s important to note that walleye’s color vision may not be as sharp as that of humans, and they may struggle to distinguish between certain colors, such as red and orange. Therefore, it’s best to focus on the colors they perceive well and tailor our lure choices accordingly.

 The Nighttime Vision of Walleye

As the sun sets and darkness descends upon the waters, walleye undergo a fascinating transformation in their vision to adapt to low-light conditions. Their eyes possess special features that enable them to excel at night fishing. Understanding how walleye see in the dark can give us a distinct advantage when it comes to nighttime angling. Let’s explore the intriguing world of their nighttime vision:

Adaptations for Low-Light Conditions: Walleye are masterful night hunters, and their eyes are finely tuned to capitalize on the limited available light during nighttime. One key adaptation is the presence of a reflective layer behind their retinas called the tapetum lucidum. This layer acts as a mirror, reflecting light that passes through the photoreceptor cells back into their eyes. It allows the photoreceptors to receive the light signal multiple times, significantly enhancing their sensitivity to low-light conditions.

Colors Visible to Walleye at Night: As mentioned earlier, walleye’s vision is not as rich in color perception as humans during the day. At night, when their vision relies heavily on rods rather than cones, their ability to distinguish colors is greatly reduced. Consequently, walleye primarily perceive colors in shades of grayscale, similar to black and white.

White and Silver: These colors are highly visible to walleye at night due to their reflective properties. Lures with white or silver accents can mimic the appearance of baitfish, making them attractive prey targets for walleye.

Glow-in-the-Dark: Lures that emit a glow-in-the-dark effect can be incredibly effective in drawing walleye’s attention during nighttime fishing. The luminous glow mimics bioluminescent organisms and can trigger walleye’s predatory instincts.

High-Contrast Colors: While walleye’s color vision is limited at night, they can still detect stark contrasts between light and dark objects. Lures with bold patterns or dark silhouettes against a light background can be enticing to walleye in low-light conditions.

It’s crucial to remember that walleye’s nighttime vision is centered around movement and contrast rather than vivid colors. Therefore, choosing lures that exhibit lifelike movements and create strong visual contrasts can significantly increase your success when fishing at night.

 Factors Affecting Walleye’s Color Perception

Walleye’s color perception is influenced by various factors that can impact how they see and respond to different colors in their environment. As anglers, understanding these factors is essential in tailoring our fishing strategies to match the walleye’s visual capabilities. Let’s explore the key factors that affect walleye’s color perception:

Water Clarity and Light Conditions

  • Water Clarity: The clarity of the water significantly affects walleye’s ability to perceive colors. In clear waters, more light penetrates, allowing walleye to see a broader spectrum of colors. On the other hand, in murky or stained waters, visibility is reduced, and only certain colors may stand out. Adjusting lure colors based on water clarity can make a big difference in attracting walleye.
  • Light Intensity: The amount of sunlight reaching the water’s surface impacts walleye’s color vision during the day. Bright sunny days provide more light for color perception, while overcast or low-light conditions can limit their ability to distinguish colors effectively.

Depth and Water Temperature

  • Depth: As walleye swim deeper in the water column, light intensity decreases, affecting their color vision. At greater depths, colors may appear less vibrant, and certain shades may blend together, making high-contrast lures more effective.
  • Water Temperature: Water temperature can influence walleye’s metabolism and activity level, which in turn can affect their responsiveness to different colors. In colder waters, walleye may be more lethargic and less responsive to intense colors, while warmer waters might increase their interest in vibrant lure presentations.

Background and Surroundings

  • Bottom Color: The color of the water’s bottom can impact how walleye perceive colors. For example, in sandy or light-colored bottoms, lures with contrasting darker colors may stand out more effectively, while in areas with darker bottom, lighter-colored lures could be more visible.
  • Vegetation and Cover: Walleye often seek shelter and prey among aquatic vegetation and underwater structures. Lures that match the color of the surrounding vegetation or blend in with the structure can be more enticing to walleye.

Feeding Behavior and Prey Preferences

  • Foraging Behavior: Walleye’s feeding behavior can influence their preference for certain colors. For instance, during periods of active feeding, they may be more receptive to bright colors, whereas in less active phases, more subtle and natural-looking colors might be preferred.
  • Prey Preferences: The colors of the walleye’s natural prey play a role in their color perception. Observing the prevalent prey species in the area can guide us in selecting lures that mimic their appearance and increase our chances of success.

 Effective Lure Colors for Day and Night Fishing

Selecting the right lure colors can make all the difference in attracting walleye during both daytime and nighttime fishing expeditions. Considering walleye’s color preferences and their vision in different lighting conditions, let’s explore the most effective lure colors for each time of the day:

Daytime Fishing Lures

  • Green and Chartreuse: As we discussed earlier, walleye have a strong affinity for shades of green and chartreuse. These colors are highly visible in clear waters and during sunny days. Use lures with green or chartreuse accents or combine these colors with other patterns for maximum effectiveness.
  • Yellow and Gold: Yellow and gold hues are also excellent choices for daytime fishing. These colors stand out well in bright conditions and can be particularly enticing to walleye in sunny weather.
  • Natural Colors: When the sun is high and the water is clear, opt for lures with natural colors like silver, white, and black. These subtle colors can mimic the appearance of baitfish and blend seamlessly into the underwater environment.

Night Fishing Lures

  • Glow-in-the-Dark: Walleye’s vision at night is heavily reliant on movement and contrast. Glow-in-the-dark lures with luminous properties can be highly effective in catching their attention in low-light conditions.
  • White and Silver: White and silver lures create strong visual contrasts against the dark background, making them stand out in the water. These colors can emulate the appearance of baitfish and draw walleye toward your bait.
  • Dark Colors with Contrasting Accents: Dark-colored lures, such as black, blue, and purple, combined with contrasting accents like orange or chartreuse, can create a striking visual effect that walleye find irresistible.

General Tips for Day and Night Fishing

  • Experimentation: Walleye’s preferences may vary based on local conditions, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and lure combinations. Keep track of what works best in different situations for future reference.
  • Lure Movement: Regardless of the color, the movement of your lure is critical. Create an attractive presentation by varying the retrieve speed and adding occasional twitches or pauses to imitate the movements of natural prey.
  • Adjusting Based on Water Clarity: As water clarity changes, adapt your lure colors accordingly. In clear waters, opt for brighter colors, while in murky waters, stick to darker or high-contrast hues.
  • Time of Day Transitions: During dawn and dusk when light conditions are changing rapidly, consider using lures that combine daytime and nighttime colors, offering the best of both worlds to walleye.

Remember to be patient, observe their behavior, and adapt your strategy as needed.

 Tips for Optimizing Color Visibility

Optimizing color visibility is crucial for increasing the effectiveness of your fishing lures and attracting the attention of walleye. To enhance the visibility of lure colors and maximize your chances of hooking these elusive fish, consider the following tips:

  1. Proper Use of Lighting:

    • Use Natural Light: Time your fishing trips during the day when there is ample natural light. Walleye’s color vision is most effective in well-lit conditions.
    • Capitalize on Sunrise and Sunset: Fishing during the “golden hours” around sunrise and sunset can provide excellent lighting conditions, increasing color visibility for both you and the walleye.
    • Choose Lures with Reflective Elements: Lures with reflective or holographic surfaces can catch and reflect light, making them more visible in the water.
  2. Glow-in-the-Dark Lures for Night Fishing:

    • Opt for Glow-in-the-Dark: In low-light conditions, such as nighttime fishing, use glow-in-the-dark lures. These lures emit a faint glow that can be easily seen by walleye and draw them towards your bait.
  3. Create Contrast:

    • High-Contrast Colors: Use lures with high-contrast colors that stand out against the surrounding water. Dark lures with bright accents or vice versa can be very enticing to walleye.
    • Consider Water Clarity: Tailor your lure colors to the water clarity. In clear waters, high-contrast colors work well, while in murky waters, opt for more vibrant hues.
  4. Pay Attention to Depth:

    • Adjust Color Selection: As you fish at different depths, consider how light behaves in the water. At deeper depths, colors may appear more muted, so choose lures that remain visible in those conditions.
  5. Lure Movement and Action:

    • Attract with Movement: Lure movement can play a significant role in attracting walleye. Choose lures with lifelike movements and action, as this can catch the attention of these curious fish.
    • Experiment with Retrieval Speed: Vary your retrieval speed to imitate the movements of different prey species. Faster retrieves may be effective for triggering walleye’s predatory instincts.
  6. Consider Seasonal Changes:

    • Adapting to Seasonal Color Preferences: Walleye’s color preferences may change with the seasons. Pay attention to what works best during different times of the year and adjust your lure colors accordingly.
  7. Observe and Learn:

    • Study Fish Behavior: Observe the behavior of walleye in your fishing area. Take note of which lure colors they seem to prefer and adapt your approach accordingly.
    • Keep a Fishing Journal: Keep a fishing journal to record your successful lure colors and strategies. This can serve as a valuable reference for future fishing trips.

Combine this knowledge with other fishing techniques, such as presentation and location, to enhance your overall fishing success.


In conclusion, understanding what colors walleye see best is a game-changer for any angler looking to reel in these elusive and intelligent fish. Walleye’s color perception during both daytime and nighttime fishing is influenced by various factors, including water clarity, light conditions, depth, and their surrounding environment.

During the day, walleye’s color vision is most pronounced in clear waters and under sunny skies. Lures with green, chartreuse, yellow, and natural colors are highly effective for attracting walleye during daylight hours.

At night, when walleye’s vision relies heavily on movement and contrast, glow-in-the-dark lures, white, silver, and dark-colored lures with contrasting accents become top choices. Creating visual contrast and mimicking the appearance of natural prey can lead to successful nighttime fishing endeavors.

Optimizing color visibility is crucial to making your lures stand out and increasing their appeal to walleye. Utilizing natural light, glow-in-the-dark lures, high-contrast colors, and considering depth and water clarity are essential aspects of achieving this goal.

Throughout your fishing journey, always observe walleye behavior and be willing to experiment with different lure colors and techniques. Keeping a fishing journal to record your successful strategies will serve as a valuable resource for future trips.

Walleye fishing is not just about catching fish; it’s about connecting with nature and appreciating the beauty of these waters and the creatures that call it home. Respect the environment, practice responsible fishing, and cherish every moment spent in the pursuit of these remarkable fish.

Now, with your rods at the ready and your lures strategically chosen, go forth and make unforgettable memories on your next walleye fishing adventure. Tight lines and happy fishing!


Raphael Dume
Raphael Dume

Raphael Dume, bestselling author and internet entrepreneur, is the visionary behind OutdoorDoer.com. He developed this platform to inspire and educate outdoor enthusiasts. OutdoorDoer.com, driven by a team of experts, offers accurate, insightful content and resources for adventurers of all levels. The site is a trusted guide for outdoor tips, gear reviews, and experiences, reflecting Raphael's passion for the outdoors and commitment to fostering a community of nature lovers.

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