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The increase in the popularity of kayak fishing, both on lakes and the ocean, has generated a mild debate on the best color for the boat. The most important consideration is safety, especially for ocean kayak fishing. The kayak should be visible to other boats, anglers and swimmers. Fish apparently do not see a large range of colors and are more likely to react to shadows. Some colors seem to attract unwanted attention from sea lions.
The most important consideration in choosing a kayak color is visibility, especially with ocean-going boats. But avoiding power boats on lakes is also essential. There are few studies on kayak color visibility, so most accounts are anecdotal.
Some colors which seem highly visible are not. White kayaks can be mistaken for surf or a crashing wave. Red kayaks disappear more quickly in low light. Even bright blue kayaks can be hard to see in blue ocean waters, as are medium to dark green boats.
For visibility, most kayakers recommend fluorescent lime green or bright orange, colors often seen on fire trucks or ambulances. Yellow kayaks also tend to be highly visible. From a distance, yellow kayaks can sometimes be seen before lime green because they reflect more light. Some kayakers say that mango is also highly visible on the waves.
For kayakers with darker boats, a solution is to attach a lime green or bright orange flag to wave above the craft for visibility. Higher flags can also help in ocean swells by making the kayak visible more quickly when it is coming out of a wave trough.
Fish and colors
Several recent studies suggest the fish cannot see many colors and are not repelled or attracted to particular shades. They do react to shadows, however.
Some kayakers like to have blue bottoms on the boat, hoping it will blend in with the water. On a sunny day, a white bottom on a kayak may be less visible than a dark bottom to fish below, the same reason most fish are white on the bottom. When fishing near a beach, a sandy-colored kayak may be less visible to fish. Camouflage may be less visible in reeds or along wooded streams.
Some fishermen do not want to be seen when at a productive hole, so as not to attract other fishermen or curious boaters who will scare away the fish. They prefer darker or camouflage-colored kayaks. Those kayakers can raise flags when pulling out into more heavily trafficked areas.
Yellow kayak issues
Some ocean kayak fishermen say that yellow kayaks attract sea lions. The animals will steal bait and fish off a line. They recommend bright green or orange boats when fishing near sea lion habitat.
Richard Cole has worked as a journalist for 35 years. He has written for or appeared in media ranging from local weeklies to the Internet and national television, including 18 years with The Associated Press. He attended Lafayette College and the University of California at Berkeley.