Know Your Weeds

Many kinds of gamefish including walleyes, panfish, pike and bass often relate to aquatic vegetation. Being able to identify different weed species can help you pinpoint areas where food and cover converge to create prime fishing areas you don’t want to miss.

To help you find the best types of vegetation and catch more fish, fast, we put together the following selection of important aquatic plants.

Broad-leaf pondweeds

Often called cabbage, several varieties of pondweed including large-leaf, floating-leaf and clasping-leaf provide exceptional habitat for baitfish plus pike, panfish, bass, muskies, walleyes and more.

As a bonus, the sturdy stalks and crisp leaves won’t foul your fish hooks like the clingier canopies of other species such as coontail.

Pondweed is found in streams and lakes in depths to 20 feet, often near or along the edges of drop-offs and bottom content changes. You can identify floating-leaf cabbage by its slightly heart-shaped leaves, which float at the surface. Large-leaf has oval-shaped leaves, while the clasping-leaf variety has wide, wavy foliage.

Pondweed attracts fish from the point it begins emerging all the way to maturity. In fact, lush beds of still-green “cabbage” often hold fish well into the winter months. Outside edges, as well as open pockets and lanes within the bed are easily fished with jigs, slip-bobber rigs, crankbaits and other presentations. You can also cast and troll jigs, spinner rigs and crankbaits over the weed tops, which is a prime feeding area in low light and windy weather.

Curly-leaf pondweed

An exotic invader that’s often called crisp pondweed, curly cabbage or simply lumped in with other pondweeds as cabbage, this species can be distinguished by small teeth on the edges of its crinkled, stiff, 2- to 3-inch leaves.

Cold tolerant and an early sprouter, the curly-leaf pondweed often provides some of the season’s first weedy cover. It grows in depths of up to 15 feet, depending on water clarity, and is commonly found in thick stands that at maturity can impede boat traffic and be difficult to fish with all but the most weedless presentations.

It often reaches the surface in early summer and dies back shortly after. Under the right conditions, including calm, hot weather, massive pondweed die-offs can starve a lake of oxygen, producing fish kills in the hardest hit areas.


North America is home to a number of species of bulrushes. Most of them look relatively similar to one another, and provide good habitat for baitfish, invertebrates and gamefish.

Often called reeds, bulrushes also offer fine spawning habitat for sunfish, bass and other species.

Typically found in shallow water, these grass-like perennials are easily identified by their slender, leafless stems. They often sprout in dense colonies and some varieties can reach heights of 10 feet.

While anglers often associate bulrush beds with hard bottom, they are often found on a variety of different bottom types. For example, hardstem bulrush does indeed prefer gravel or hard sand, but the softstem strain flourishes on far muddier substrates.


A native species often called “hornwort,” coontail is common in moderate to very fertile fisheries and provides great habitat for juvenile fish and other aquatic creatures, which makes coontail beds prime feeding areas for hungry gamefish.

You can identify coontail by looking for five to 12 serrated, forked, antler-shaped leaves per whorl.

Although it might not help you catch more fish, it’s interesting to note that coontail doesn’t put down roots. Instead, the plant uses modified leaves to anchor itself in place, and absorbs nutrients from the water around it.

Coontail can also survive while floating freely in the water column, and sometimes forms thick mats just below the surface.

Eurasian watermilfoil

An exotic nuisance species once sold in the aquarium trade, this plant is widespread and can crowd out native vegetation.

It spreads fast since it reproduces both from seeds and plant fragments, and can infest a lake within two or three growing seasons.

This type of milfoil forms dense stands that often hold sunfish and bass, but is so thick it can be challenging to fish unless you punch heavy weights down through the canopy to more open water close to the bottom.

You can identify Eurasian watermilfoil by its feathery leaves, which are typically arranged in whorls of four, with 12 or more pairs of closely spaced leaflets.


This native grass provides critical cover and feeding opportunities for invertebrates, small fish and large gamefish.

It grows up to eight feet tall and has long, tapered leaves that may stretch up to a foot in length.

Maidencane sprouts in the water and along shorelines, and often forms thick stands or colonies.

Northern watermilfoil

Sometimes mistaken for exotic Eurasian watermilfoil, the northern variety is a native plant that grows entirely beneath the surface in depths of one to 20 feet.

It’s important to a number of different fish species, and can be identified by dark green, feathery leaves grouped in fours along a hollow stem.

White water lily

Commonly called lily pads or just pads, water lilies provide shade, cover and a place to feed for a number of different gamefish, including largemouth bass and bluegills.

Some species, such as northern pike, frequent the pads early in the season, then move deeper as water temperatures warm, while bass and bluegills often lurk in the cool shade all summer long.

Favoring soft, mucky or silty bottoms in water up to five feet deep, the water lily grows in slow-moving streams, swamps, lakes and ponds across the continent.

It is easily identified by is large round, flat leaves that may span a foot in diameter and are slit from the edge to the center. Its namesake white flower opens in the morning and closes by afternoon.

While massive beds of water lilies may produce good fishing, don’t overlook smaller “satellite” beds nearby. These patches often hold an abundance of beefy bass and panfish, and are easily fished.

In general, you can do well by targeting open pockets, pieces of cover (such as timber) or structural irregularities within a large bed.

– Source

2016-03-03T05:30:15-05:00March 3rd, 2016|Articles & Tips|