Kayak Color: Does It Matter When Fishing?


A common question I receive when someone is looking for help in buying a fishing kayak is, “What is the best color kayak to get for fishing?”. Personally, I have fished many years from many styles of boats with a broad spectrum of colors. Including one which was hand brushed with red, dark green, and some blue house paint!

The quick answer is: The specific color of kayak doesn’t matter when it comes to the fish. It is the shadows and movement from above, which will scare and spook fish. Kayak colors, which will make you visible to other boaters like yellow or orange, are far more critical for your personal safety.

There are additional factors you may want to consider in choosing a kayak color for yourself as well. You may desire to be more noticeable on the water and avoid possible boating accidents with others. Or very possibly you would like to remain stealthy and hidden if you happen to also hunt on the water.

Color choices of kayaks are more of a personal preference thing. There is a wide variety of colors and combinations of colors, such as different types of camo to choose from.

Fishing and Kayak Colors

The fact of the matter is, the color of your kayak will have very little to do with your fishing success. So you should choose a color which fits your own personal preference and style of fishing. Most times, you will be sitting in your kayak anywhere from 25′-30′ away from the fish and casting into the cover or structure. The fish will hardly even notice you or your kayak that far away.

The thing which will spook fish more than any specific color will be movement from above, and shadows which are crossing over or near them. Fish aren’t dumb, and they know predators such as eagles or osprey come from above a high percentage of the time. Fish such as trout or smallmouth bass in rivers and streams will hold tight to the bank. They also know land predators will come from above.

It is far more essential to remain stealthy by keeping the noise levels down and not knocking items around inside your kayak. Noises will scare off more fish than the color of your kayak. Approach fish structure quietly, and your success percentage of hooking into fish will increase significantly.

Depending upon where you will most likely fish with your kayak, and what other possible activities you have in mind for it, these two variables will have quite a bit to do with the color you may want to choose.

Best Colors for Safety

If you plan on using your kayak on bodies of water with high boat traffic, safety should be a number one priority for you. Bright neon type colors will possibly allow other boaters to notice you from quite a distance and steer clear of you.

Bright yellow, marine orange, or even a neon green lime color will stand out more than a darker colored kayak. Reds and the darker colors will tend to blend into the background from a distance.

With yellow and marine orange colors, they can be seen from quite a distance, even on cloudy days. They are prominent colors and stand out from the water and background, which make it a pretty safe color to use on popular lakes and waters.

Even with the bright neon colors, don’t assume all boaters will see you. Boaters can be distracted by pulling skiers or tubes behind them, or they could have a cooler of beer on board!

It is highly recommended you also have a kayak flag mounted to your kayak. If you’d like a bit more information on flags, take a quick look at the article, Do I need a Flag on my Kayak? on this site.

Stay Away From White and Light Colors!

A quick word of caution here. If you are fishing offshore or in bays or even more substantial bodies of inland waters, I would highly recommend staying away from white and lighter colored kayaks.

White kayaks will tend to blend in with whitecaps from a distance, and a boater may not even see you. Even on inshore lakes with skiers and boats pulling tubes, there can be a lot of water disturbance, and a white kayak simply will not be noticed as much.

The same thing can occur with most of the other lighter colors. They tend to blend into the water if there is a little wave action or whitecaps from a light breeze. Sandy colors or light browns can also blend into the shoreline, brush, cattails, and reeds, making you very difficult to pick out from a distance.

Colors for Hunting and Fishing Kayaks

When I purchased my fishing kayak, a Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 120, there were a host of colors to choose from. The color I ended up choosing was a Desert Camo, which is not currently available or being offered any longer. Wilderness Systems do provide other camo colors now.

One of the main reasons I chose the Desert Camo was I intend to also use my fishing kayak for hunting waterfowl on a local lake as well. So if you’re also a wildfowl hunter and plan on using your kayak as a multitasker, choose a color that will work for you in the areas you intend to hunt.

A.T.A.K. 120 Desert Camo
A.T.A.K. 120 Desert Camo

With so many colors being offered, you can choose camouflage in a multitude of hues. There are camo patterns using blacks, greens, browns, whites, and shades of grey. On the flip side, you can also find camo type patterns in bright colors like yellow, lime greens, and mango colors, among others.

With kayaks such as the one pictured above, you can easily slide into the cattails or bulrushes and become almost immediately invisible to the ducks and geese. Besides, they also become very easy to camouflage by cutting a handful of foliage from around you and laying them across the kayak deck and seat.

One of the negative caveats of using a camo pattern kayak for fishing is that on cloudy days or if there is a slight chop on the water, which is often a great time to be fishing, these colors can be tough to see.

My recommendation on colors to choose based off of my own research and preferences are: For safety, I would go with the Bright Yellow or Marine Orange colors to be seen from a distance by approaching boaters. And for a multiuse type of fishing and hunting kayak, definitely go with a camouflage pattern that best resembles the areas you intend to hunt more frequently.

The bottom line is to choose a color that you like and will give you some safety from other boaters. In the end, the specific color will not affect your fishing as much as being quiet and moving stealthily through the water.

Related Questions

Can I just wear brightly colored clothing? Indeed wearing bright colored clothes will afford boaters a better opportunity of seeing you from a distance. High visibility headwear like hunter orange caps are suitable to wear, and I would recommend doing so if fishing in a camo colored kayak.

Do fish see colors? Most fish have developed visual sensory, which will pick up colors typical of their environment. The consensus is, inshore fish have a decent color vision while offshore fish have more of a limited color vision. With differing rods and cones on species of fish, some will see specific colors better than others. While colors may fade to blacks and whites, the further away they become.

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing and is a member of Clam Outdoors Pro Staff. When he has spare time, he'll be found building custom fishing rods.

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