Nothing Beats Chartreuse

A lure looks different above and below the surface of the water
Sam Doughty of Springs caught these nice-looking fluke south of Montauk.

Open a fisherman’s tackle box and you’ll see lures of every imaginable color. But what color catches the most fish? 

The first thing every fisherman must understand is that a lure looks different above and below the surface of the water. As the lure descends in the water column, the intensity of its color gradually diminishes. But, importantly, not every color loses its vibrancy at the same rate. This has important implications when considering which color lures should be fished at what depths. 

Visible light comprises seven colors. Remember the ROY-G-BIV cheat for memorizing the colors of the rainbow? An object’s color is determined by which color(s) it reflects and which it absorbs. A lure is perceived as red by both humans and fish because it reflects the red segment of the white light spectrum. The stronger the light source, the more vivid the color and vice versa. Anyone with a light dimmer in their house experiences this daily. 

Well, it turns out that water absorbs light very effectively. At only half an inch below the surface, nearly 25 percent of sunlight is reflected or absorbed. At just three feet below, about 55 percent of the light is lost. At 33-feet below the surface, only 22 percent of the light is available. So no matter what the color, a lure is difficult to see at almost any depth even under perfect conditions. Throw in a cloudy day, rough sea conditions, or dirty water and it quickly gets dark down below. 

As sunlight travels through the water column, its component colors progressively disappear. Red, with the longest wavelength, is absorbed first. In typical conditions, red turns muddy gray at about 17 feet. Orange follows at 24 feet. Yellow is next at 50 feet. Then Green at 85 feet. Indigo follows at 116 feet. Violet remains visible at great depths. 

When choosing a lure color, a fisherman must consider how it will appear at the depth it will be fished rather than how it appears in hand. A fish can only react to a color it can see. 

Your favorite red fluke teaser that kills at 15 feet depth will likely not impress at 30 feet. A white jig with a sexy yellow grub tail might produce bass in the shallow rips around Bostwick Point, but likely won’t get results in the deep, dark water of Plum Gut.  

One would think that a brightly colored lure would work best on a dark night. But the opposite is true. With little light available, colors are indistinguishable. It’s best to cast a black popper to the fish feeding under the Lighthouse. The silhouette of the lure against the relatively brighter night sky will entice fish looking up towards the surface. It’s also a good idea to use black when fishing deep. If you don’t have a dark lure, use one with two contrasting colors to gain visibility. This also is a productive strategy when fishing during the day under thick cloud cover or in dirty water. Try a red/white shallow popper or shallow swimmer on those schools of bluefish around Accabonac Harbor.

If all this color science is too much, then take comfort in the fact that a lure’s action and profile are probably more important than its color. But on a day that fish have lockjaw, knowing which colors shine at which depths can make a difference.

What color catches the most fish? Chartreuse.

Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported that blues have taken residence at the Point, frustrating surfcasters targeting stripers, which still haven’t shown in numbers. He also said that small fluke are biting outside of Accabonac Harbor. Bluefish continue to feed there as well. Bennett said that the porgy bite remains hot but fish seem to be a little smaller now. He also reported that large striped bass are moving into Gardiner’s Bay, which is typical for this time of year. 

Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor said that striped bass remain thick in Peconic Bay. He suggested live-lining a bunker for best results. Morse reported that fluking is spotty, with few keepers landed. Porgy fishing remains strong in the Peconic and anglers using chum are catching a weakfish here and there too. 

According to T.J. at Gone Fishing Marina in Montauk, fluke fishing is heating up from the rips to the radar station, with one customer bringing in a 9.1-pound fish. Sam Doughty of Springs, a Tackle Shop customer, caught two hefty fluke off the south side of Montauk. One was over eight pounds. 

Sebastian Gorgone at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle reported great porgy fishing in Gardiner’s Bay and said that party boats from as far away Connecticut are getting in on the action.