- Archer fish are known for their unique hunting method, where one fish in a group shoots down an insect with a jet of water while all the other fish are observing the prey’s motion. To reap its reward, the archer fish must reach the prey before its competitors. This requires fast computation of the direction of motion of the prey, which enables the fish to initiate a turn towards the prey with an accuracy of 99%, at about 100 ms after the prey is shot. We explored the hypothesis that direction‐selective retinal ganglion cells may underlie this rapid processing. We quantified the degree of directional selectivity of ganglion cells in the archer fish retina. The cells could be categorized into three groups: sharply (5%), broadly (37%) and non‐tuned (58%) directionally selective cells. To relate the electrophysiological data to the behavioral results we studied a computational model and estimated the time required to accumulate sufficient directional information to match the decision accuracy of the fish. The computational model is based on two direction‐selective populations that race against each other until one reaches the threshold and drives the decision. We found that this competition model can account for the observed response time at the required accuracy. Thus, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the fast response behavior of the archer fish relies on retinal identification of movement direction.