Angler's Aquatic Plant ID

Want to be a better fisherman? Learn smart, season-based strategies for fishing the “weeds.”

Across the country, they go by different names. Valley anglers often refer to them collectively as “weeds,” “grass,” or “moss.” Whatever you call them, aquatic plants are an integral part of the Tennessee River’s ecosystem, whether providing nutrients for the species at the bottom of the food chain, or cover and ambush areas for largemouth bass.

While many aquatic plants look the same, understanding the differences can make you a better bass fisherman. Whether you prefer to punch a jig, burn a lipless crankbait or fish a frog, this guide to aquatic plants in the Tennessee Valley can help you be the best angler you can be.

Developed by fishermen for fishermen, this guide gives you all the information you need to understand when these plants are most productive, where they grow and—most importantly—how to fish them. Whether you are a seasoned tournament angler, weekend warrior or new to fishing altogether, we invite you to learn more about aquatic plants and improve your catch.

Floating and Floating Leaf Plants

Bladderwort

Although not known as prime fishable vegetation, bladderwort (Utricularia sp.) can be found intermixed with newly emerging grass beds. The rootless plant will probably become more of a menace as you continually pick it out of your hook.

Bladderwort

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—A free-floating perennial plant with no roots, bladderwort grows from turions (bud-like structures) which had sunk to the bottom prior to winter. Once detached from the turions, bladderwort will rise to the water’s surface where it will begin its free-floating stage. Although not known as prime fishable vegetation, bladderwort can be found intermixed with newly emerging grass beds. The rootless plant will probably become more of a menace as you continually pick it out of your hook.

Summer—Bladderwort does not exhibit rapid growth like other plants during summer, but will free float within the water gathering nutrients from digested prey in it’s bladder structures. Negligible fishing benefit.

Fall—Bladderwort will begin the formation of turions, which will ensure that it survives until the next spring. Negligible fishing benefit.

Winter—Vegetative portions will die back and formed turions will sink the plant to the bottom, where it will remain dormant until the following spring. Negligible fishing benefit.

Habitat Value

Fish—Although not often found in abundance, some species of fish will use bladderwort as refuge or a place to lay eggs.

Waterfowl—Not noted as a primary waterfowl food; however invertebrates consumed by waterfowl may be found within bladderwort and other mixed vegetation.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Bladderwort is a carnivorous plant, making it unique among other species of this guide. The plant is very easily identified by it’s tiny bladder structures which catch and digest prey.

Where to Find It—Bladderwort prefers stagnant backwater where it can easily catch prey as it swims by.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—N/A

Drawbacks

Native bladderwort very seldom causes issues in the large reservoir systems of the Tennessee Valley. Cost to manage: $ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Bladderwort

Although not known as prime fishable vegetation, bladderwort (Utricularia sp.) can be found intermixed with newly emerging grass beds. The rootless plant will probably become more of a menace as you continually pick it out of your hook.

Bladderwort

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—A free-floating perennial plant with no roots, bladderwort grows from turions (bud-like structures) which had sunk to the bottom prior to winter. Once detached from the turions, bladderwort will rise to the water’s surface where it will begin its free-floating stage. Although not known as prime fishable vegetation, bladderwort can be found intermixed with newly emerging grass beds. The rootless plant will probably become more of a menace as you continually pick it out of your hook.

Summer—Bladderwort does not exhibit rapid growth like other plants during summer, but will free float within the water gathering nutrients from digested prey in it’s bladder structures. Negligible fishing benefit.

Fall—Bladderwort will begin the formation of turions, which will ensure that it survives until the next spring. Negligible fishing benefit.

Winter—Vegetative portions will die back and formed turions will sink the plant to the bottom, where it will remain dormant until the following spring. Negligible fishing benefit.

Habitat Value

Fish—Although not often found in abundance, some species of fish will use bladderwort as refuge or a place to lay eggs.

Waterfowl—Not noted as a primary waterfowl food; however invertebrates consumed by waterfowl may be found within bladderwort and other mixed vegetation.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Bladderwort is a carnivorous plant, making it unique among other species of this guide. The plant is very easily identified by it’s tiny bladder structures which catch and digest prey.

Where to Find It—Bladderwort prefers stagnant backwater where it can easily catch prey as it swims by.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—N/A

Drawbacks

Native bladderwort very seldom causes issues in the large reservoir systems of the Tennessee Valley. Cost to manage: $ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Bladderwort

Although not known as prime fishable vegetation, bladderwort (Utricularia sp.) can be found intermixed with newly emerging grass beds. The rootless plant will probably become more of a menace as you continually pick it out of your hook.

Bladderwort

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—A free-floating perennial plant with no roots, bladderwort grows from turions (bud-like structures) which had sunk to the bottom prior to winter. Once detached from the turions, bladderwort will rise to the water’s surface where it will begin its free-floating stage. Although not known as prime fishable vegetation, bladderwort can be found intermixed with newly emerging grass beds. The rootless plant will probably become more of a menace as you continually pick it out of your hook.

Summer—Bladderwort does not exhibit rapid growth like other plants during summer, but will free float within the water gathering nutrients from digested prey in it’s bladder structures. Negligible fishing benefit.

Fall—Bladderwort will begin the formation of turions, which will ensure that it survives until the next spring. Negligible fishing benefit.

Winter—Vegetative portions will die back and formed turions will sink the plant to the bottom, where it will remain dormant until the following spring. Negligible fishing benefit.

Habitat Value

Fish—Although not often found in abundance, some species of fish will use bladderwort as refuge or a place to lay eggs.

Waterfowl—Not noted as a primary waterfowl food; however invertebrates consumed by waterfowl may be found within bladderwort and other mixed vegetation.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Bladderwort is a carnivorous plant, making it unique among other species of this guide. The plant is very easily identified by it’s tiny bladder structures which catch and digest prey.

Where to Find It—Bladderwort prefers stagnant backwater where it can easily catch prey as it swims by.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—N/A

Drawbacks

Native bladderwort very seldom causes issues in the large reservoir systems of the Tennessee Valley. Cost to manage: $ out of $$$$$.

Managing Aquatic Plants

Invasive plant species like hydrilla and milfoil can make for great edge fishing, but when found smack dab in front of your favorite boat ramp can keep you and others from even being able to enjoy the reservoir at all! A “drawbacks” section within each plant species page highlights the need to manage these plants in certain situations, and provides a relative cost scale from low ($) to high ($$$$$).

You may encounter TVA or its contractors managing aquatic plants in small, developed public access areas (such as boat ramps) at its reservoirs. TVA manages aquatic plants on an as-needed basis to improve public access to its reservoirs. Learn more about how TVA manages aquatic plants.

Aquatic Weeds Treatment Schedule

Learn when TVA contractors will be in your area using harvesters or EPA-approved herbicides to control the overgrowth of invasive aquatic plants. View the most recent schedule.

Valley Lakes Worth Billions

A new study by TVA and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has found that the economic impact to the region of TVA's reservoir system is nearly $12 billion each year, and that it contributes 130,000 jobs. Managing aquatic weeds is one way to make sure recreation proceeds unhindered. Read more about this groundbreaking study.

Further Reading

For more information on aquatic plants on Guntersville—or in general—read three stories by Bassmaster columnist and program manager of TVA Aquatic Plant Management Brett Hartis: “Bass and Grass on Guntersville,” “ Secrets of Fall Bass in the Grass” and “Where Has All the Grass Gone?”.

Contact Us

We're always looking for more information about aquatic plants on TVA reservoirs. Let us know where and what you see, and send us your photos. Email us.