Can Fish Smell Underwater?

Can Fish Smell Underwater?

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Key takeaways

  •  Fish have an extraordinary sense of smell that is crucial for their survival in the underwater world.
  •  Different fish species vary in their reliance on smell, with some, like catfish and carp, having a much stronger sense of smell than others, such as bass and sunfish, which depend more on vision.
  •  Anglers can improve their fishing success by understanding which fish species have a strong sense of smell and using scented baits or lures accordingly.

Have you ever wondered if fish can smell underwater? It's a question that many of us anglers ponder, as the answer could have significant implications for our fishing techniques and choice of bait or lure. Some people might assume that fish can't smell underwater because humans can't smell while submerged. After all, we breathe air, not water, so it's hard for us to imagine detecting scents in an aquatic environment. However, this assumption is far from the truth. Fish have a remarkable sense of smell that plays a crucial role in their survival, and understanding how they use this sense can help anglers become more successful on the water.

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Why Understanding How Fish Senses Work Matters

Learning about how fish senses work, especially their sense of smell, is important for those of us who like to fish. Knowing which types of fish have a strong sense of smell can help them choose the best bait and fishing methods.

Since some fish have a strong sense of smell, using baits and lures that have a scent can help attract them. For example, fishermen often use smelly baits like stink baits or scented lures to catch catfish and carp. These stinky smells can help draw the fish in from far away.

When trying to catch a certain type of fish, it's important to think about which senses that fish relies on the most. For smell feeders like catfish, using smelly baits is a good idea. But for sight feeders like bass, using lures that look like real prey, such as minnows or worms, might work better. Knowing whether a fish uses its nose or its eyes more can help fishermen choose the right gear and techniques.

Fish Have a Highly Developed Sense of Smell

Fish have nostrils on their snouts, but they don't use them to breathe as we do. Instead, these nostrils are connected to a special structure inside the fish's nose called the olfactory rosette. This rosette is made up of many tiny folds that are covered in cells that can detect different smells in the water.

Fish can smell very small amounts of chemicals and scents in the water. They can detect these smells at levels that are much lower than what humans can smell. This amazing ability helps fish find food, avoid danger, and locate other fish.

Not all fish have the same sense of smell. Some fish, like catfish and carp, have a much stronger sense of smell than others. These fish rely heavily on their noses to find food and navigate their underwater world. Other fish, like bass and sunfish, depend more on their eyesight to find food and don't have as strong a sense of smell.

How Fish Use Their Sense of Smell

Fish use their strong sense of smell to find food in the water. They can detect small amounts of chemicals released by their prey, such as amino acids and bile acids. These chemicals create a scent trail that fish can follow to locate their next meal.

Just like how a dog follows a scent trail to find a hidden treat, fish use their noses to track down food. When a worm or a snail moves through the water, it leaves behind a trail of scent that fish can detect and follow. This helps them find food sources, even in murky or dark water where it's hard to see.

In addition to finding food, fish also use their sense of smell to detect other fish in the area. They can smell if there are predators nearby and avoid those areas to stay safe. Fish can also recognize the scent of their family members, which helps them stick together in schools.

Fish rely on their sense of smell to navigate through their underwater world. By detecting different scents in the water, they can find their way to food sources, locate good places to lay eggs, and avoid areas where there might be danger. Their keen sense of smell helps them make important decisions about where to swim and what to do.


Fish have an incredible sense of smell that helps them survive in their underwater world. Understanding how fish use their noses to find food, avoid danger, and explore their environment is not only fascinating but also useful for anyone who enjoys fishing. By knowing which fish have a strong sense of smell and how they use it, we can become better anglers and develop a deeper appreciation for the amazing abilities of these underwater creatures. So the next time you're out on the water, remember that beneath the surface, fish are using their powerful noses to explore their world in ways we can only imagine.

 Don't miss our post Fishing Scents: Do They Work or Not?

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