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

Giant Salvinia

In late spring, highly invasive giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) plants can provide floating mats that can be targeted with flipping baits and jigs.

Giant Salvinia

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Native to the tropics, giant salvinia rarely overwinters in TVA system to continue growth in spring. Most often, new plants are a result of aquarium dumps in summer. In late spring, existing plants can provide floating mats that can be targeted with flipping baits and jigs.

Summer—Will rapidly grow in system while weather is warm. Quickly forming dense colonies, even heavy punching will do little to penetrate within salvinia. Some edge fishing may be available.

Fall—Plants introduced in summer will maximize colonization by vegetative reproduction of new plants. Remaining colonies can be penetrated in late fall as the plants begin to die.

Winter—Preferring warm water, this species will quickly die off in winter. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Habitat Value

Fish—Can provide habitat during early introduction but speedy growth and expansion can cause fluctuations in water quality and shade out beneficial submersed species.

Waterfowl—No known food value

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A floating aquatic fern, giant salvinia can be identified by its floating cupped fronds which often appear hairy.

Where to Find It—This species thrives in calm, backwater areas but will begin to float throughout the reservoir with changing winds and currents.

Similar Species—Very similar to common salvinia, but can be separated by an “egg-beater” shape to hairs within each frond. Common salvinia is somewhat smaller and hairs are “T”-shaped.

Drawbacks

Although this species rarely overwinters in TVA systems, it could quickly become one of the most expensive species to manage if the species becomes more tolerant of colder water. Management of giant salvinia in other areas has been extremely expensive. Cost to manage: $$$$$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Giant Salvinia

In late spring, highly invasive giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) plants can provide floating mats that can be targeted with flipping baits and jigs.

Giant Salvinia

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Native to the tropics, giant salvinia rarely overwinters in TVA system to continue growth in spring. Most often, new plants are a result of aquarium dumps in summer. In late spring, existing plants can provide floating mats that can be targeted with flipping baits and jigs.

Summer—Will rapidly grow in system while weather is warm. Quickly forming dense colonies, even heavy punching will do little to penetrate within salvinia. Some edge fishing may be available.

Fall—Plants introduced in summer will maximize colonization by vegetative reproduction of new plants. Remaining colonies can be penetrated in late fall as the plants begin to die.

Winter—Preferring warm water, this species will quickly die off in winter. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Habitat Value

Fish—Can provide habitat during early introduction but speedy growth and expansion can cause fluctuations in water quality and shade out beneficial submersed species.

Waterfowl—No known food value

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A floating aquatic fern, giant salvinia can be identified by its floating cupped fronds which often appear hairy.

Where to Find It—This species thrives in calm, backwater areas but will begin to float throughout the reservoir with changing winds and currents.

Similar Species—Very similar to common salvinia, but can be separated by an “egg-beater” shape to hairs within each frond. Common salvinia is somewhat smaller and hairs are “T”-shaped.

Drawbacks

Although this species rarely overwinters in TVA systems, it could quickly become one of the most expensive species to manage if the species becomes more tolerant of colder water. Management of giant salvinia in other areas has been extremely expensive. Cost to manage: $$$$$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Giant Salvinia

In late spring, highly invasive giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) plants can provide floating mats that can be targeted with flipping baits and jigs.

Giant Salvinia

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Native to the tropics, giant salvinia rarely overwinters in TVA system to continue growth in spring. Most often, new plants are a result of aquarium dumps in summer. In late spring, existing plants can provide floating mats that can be targeted with flipping baits and jigs.

Summer—Will rapidly grow in system while weather is warm. Quickly forming dense colonies, even heavy punching will do little to penetrate within salvinia. Some edge fishing may be available.

Fall—Plants introduced in summer will maximize colonization by vegetative reproduction of new plants. Remaining colonies can be penetrated in late fall as the plants begin to die.

Winter—Preferring warm water, this species will quickly die off in winter. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Habitat Value

Fish—Can provide habitat during early introduction but speedy growth and expansion can cause fluctuations in water quality and shade out beneficial submersed species.

Waterfowl—No known food value

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A floating aquatic fern, giant salvinia can be identified by its floating cupped fronds which often appear hairy.

Where to Find It—This species thrives in calm, backwater areas but will begin to float throughout the reservoir with changing winds and currents.

Similar Species—Very similar to common salvinia, but can be separated by an “egg-beater” shape to hairs within each frond. Common salvinia is somewhat smaller and hairs are “T”-shaped.

Drawbacks

Although this species rarely overwinters in TVA systems, it could quickly become one of the most expensive species to manage if the species becomes more tolerant of colder water. Management of giant salvinia in other areas has been extremely expensive. 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.