We measured the spectral distributions of the underwater total and polarized light fields in the upper photic zone of meso-eutrophic waters (i.e., blue-green waters containing medium to high chlorophyll a concentrations). Per cent polarization levels during the day were always lower than 40%, but at crepuscular times these values could increase to 67%. A corresponding change occurred in the spectral distribution, with proportionately more shorter wavelength photons contributing to the total spectrum during crepuscular periods. Electrophysiological recordings from the optic nerve of rainbow trout subjected to light stimuli of varying polarization percentages show that the animal's threshold for detecting polarized light is between 63 and 72%. These physiological findings suggest that the use of water-induced polarized light cues by rainbow trout and similar percomorph fish should be restricted to crepuscular time periods.