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

Coontail

In the fall, as annual submersed species begin to die off, pockets of coontail (Ceratopyllum demersum) may continue to hold fish. Try a fishing a frog or a rat around this hearty native plant.

Coontail

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—A submersed perennial, this plant will begin growth in spring from seed produced the previous year. Once germinated, the plant will break off and float to the surface, never forming any roots. Unlike many of the other submersed species, this lack of roots makes coontail highly mobile. The plant is actually free-floating, so wind shifts and currents can move entire populations in spring. Key in more on rooted plants creating permanent cover during spring.

Summer—Like most other plants, coontail will grow at maximum rates in summer. Having no roots, coontail gets its nutrients directly from the water. As other species begin to establish, coontail can be found floating or trapped in mud among other plant beds. Fish the holes created by the transition among species with a flipping bait. Coontail is a good producer of oxygen, so vital during summer months.

Fall—Unlike many annuals, coontail will stick around during the fall months, floating wherever the current takes it. Find those same beds leftover from summer, but beware as current can easily move them. As other annual submersed species begin to die off, pockets of coontail may continue to hold fish. Try a frog or rat around hearty coontail.

Winter—Coontail will begin to break up in the harsh cold months of winter but some isolated pockets may stick around. Find isolated patches that make it through winter and fish them.

Habitat Value

Fish—The mobile nature of coontail makes it hard to determine what purpose it may serve as habitat, however trapped portions within beds of other species create some transition zones.

Waterfowl—N/A

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Very similar to milfoil and fanwort; however the leaves are branched—almost resembling antlers—and not fanned out like fanwort.

Where to Find It—Coontail will float wherever the wind or current will take it. You will often find this plant intermixed with other species that grow around it and hold it in place. Look for coontail on the outside edges of existing plant beds.

Similar Species—Milfoils, fanwort.

Drawbacks

Native coontail rarely impacts water use in reservoirs. Cost to manage: $ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Coontail

In the fall, as annual submersed species begin to die off, pockets of coontail (Ceratopyllum demersum) may continue to hold fish. Try a fishing a frog or a rat around this hearty native plant.

Coontail

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—A submersed perennial, this plant will begin growth in spring from seed produced the previous year. Once germinated, the plant will break off and float to the surface, never forming any roots. Unlike many of the other submersed species, this lack of roots makes coontail highly mobile. The plant is actually free-floating, so wind shifts and currents can move entire populations in spring. Key in more on rooted plants creating permanent cover during spring.

Summer—Like most other plants, coontail will grow at maximum rates in summer. Having no roots, coontail gets its nutrients directly from the water. As other species begin to establish, coontail can be found floating or trapped in mud among other plant beds. Fish the holes created by the transition among species with a flipping bait. Coontail is a good producer of oxygen, so vital during summer months.

Fall—Unlike many annuals, coontail will stick around during the fall months, floating wherever the current takes it. Find those same beds leftover from summer, but beware as current can easily move them. As other annual submersed species begin to die off, pockets of coontail may continue to hold fish. Try a frog or rat around hearty coontail.

Winter—Coontail will begin to break up in the harsh cold months of winter but some isolated pockets may stick around. Find isolated patches that make it through winter and fish them.

Habitat Value

Fish—The mobile nature of coontail makes it hard to determine what purpose it may serve as habitat, however trapped portions within beds of other species create some transition zones.

Waterfowl—N/A

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Very similar to milfoil and fanwort; however the leaves are branched—almost resembling antlers—and not fanned out like fanwort.

Where to Find It—Coontail will float wherever the wind or current will take it. You will often find this plant intermixed with other species that grow around it and hold it in place. Look for coontail on the outside edges of existing plant beds.

Similar Species—Milfoils, fanwort.

Drawbacks

Native coontail rarely impacts water use in reservoirs. Cost to manage: $ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Coontail

In the fall, as annual submersed species begin to die off, pockets of coontail (Ceratopyllum demersum) may continue to hold fish. Try a fishing a frog or a rat around this hearty native plant.

Coontail

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—A submersed perennial, this plant will begin growth in spring from seed produced the previous year. Once germinated, the plant will break off and float to the surface, never forming any roots. Unlike many of the other submersed species, this lack of roots makes coontail highly mobile. The plant is actually free-floating, so wind shifts and currents can move entire populations in spring. Key in more on rooted plants creating permanent cover during spring.

Summer—Like most other plants, coontail will grow at maximum rates in summer. Having no roots, coontail gets its nutrients directly from the water. As other species begin to establish, coontail can be found floating or trapped in mud among other plant beds. Fish the holes created by the transition among species with a flipping bait. Coontail is a good producer of oxygen, so vital during summer months.

Fall—Unlike many annuals, coontail will stick around during the fall months, floating wherever the current takes it. Find those same beds leftover from summer, but beware as current can easily move them. As other annual submersed species begin to die off, pockets of coontail may continue to hold fish. Try a frog or rat around hearty coontail.

Winter—Coontail will begin to break up in the harsh cold months of winter but some isolated pockets may stick around. Find isolated patches that make it through winter and fish them.

Habitat Value

Fish—The mobile nature of coontail makes it hard to determine what purpose it may serve as habitat, however trapped portions within beds of other species create some transition zones.

Waterfowl—N/A

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Very similar to milfoil and fanwort; however the leaves are branched—almost resembling antlers—and not fanned out like fanwort.

Where to Find It—Coontail will float wherever the wind or current will take it. You will often find this plant intermixed with other species that grow around it and hold it in place. Look for coontail on the outside edges of existing plant beds.

Similar Species—Milfoils, fanwort.

Drawbacks

Native coontail rarely impacts water use in reservoirs. 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.