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

Mosquito Fern

In summer, throw a buzzbait or other top-water moving bait into mosquito fern (Azolla sp.) and wait for those big bass blow-ups!

Mosquito Fern

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Plants are present in the spring as tiny spores but not yet visible to the naked eye. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Summer—Plants will rapidly break up at branching points and form numerous new plants. The result is colonies of mosquito fern that will begin to become visible to the naked eye. Colonies will become apparent in late summer and offer up some great topwater fishing. Throw a buzzbait or other top-water moving bait and wait for those big bass blow-ups!

Fall—By early fall, mosquito fern colonies will span entire coves and quiet backwater areas. Colonies will be much thicker by mid-fall. Throw weedless topwater baits capable of maneuvering across large colonies. Fish can easily break through mosquito fern to take down prey.

Winter—Plants will rapidly die with reproductive parts sinking to the bottom. These reproductive portions will again rise in the spring to create new plants. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Habitat Value

Fish—Provides habitat for many species consumed by insectivorous fishes.

Waterfowl—No known food value for waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What it Looks Like—A tiny water fern, native mosquito fern is easily identifiable by its Christmas-tree shape. In fall, large colonies of mosquito fern will turn dark red creating a crimson look to large areas.

Where to Find It—Mosquito fern prefers calm water areas in the backs of creeks and embayments. Is often mixed with duckweed species.

Similar Species—Similar in size to duckweeds but is easily distinguishable by shape and color.

Drawbacks

Mosquito fern can inhibit some water uses and management is often needed when colonies grow to nuisance levels. Cost to manage: $$$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Mosquito Fern

In summer, throw a buzzbait or other top-water moving bait into mosquito fern (Azolla sp.) and wait for those big bass blow-ups!

Mosquito Fern

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Plants are present in the spring as tiny spores but not yet visible to the naked eye. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Summer—Plants will rapidly break up at branching points and form numerous new plants. The result is colonies of mosquito fern that will begin to become visible to the naked eye. Colonies will become apparent in late summer and offer up some great topwater fishing. Throw a buzzbait or other top-water moving bait and wait for those big bass blow-ups!

Fall—By early fall, mosquito fern colonies will span entire coves and quiet backwater areas. Colonies will be much thicker by mid-fall. Throw weedless topwater baits capable of maneuvering across large colonies. Fish can easily break through mosquito fern to take down prey.

Winter—Plants will rapidly die with reproductive parts sinking to the bottom. These reproductive portions will again rise in the spring to create new plants. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Habitat Value

Fish—Provides habitat for many species consumed by insectivorous fishes.

Waterfowl—No known food value for waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What it Looks Like—A tiny water fern, native mosquito fern is easily identifiable by its Christmas-tree shape. In fall, large colonies of mosquito fern will turn dark red creating a crimson look to large areas.

Where to Find It—Mosquito fern prefers calm water areas in the backs of creeks and embayments. Is often mixed with duckweed species.

Similar Species—Similar in size to duckweeds but is easily distinguishable by shape and color.

Drawbacks

Mosquito fern can inhibit some water uses and management is often needed when colonies grow to nuisance levels. Cost to manage: $$$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Mosquito Fern

In summer, throw a buzzbait or other top-water moving bait into mosquito fern (Azolla sp.) and wait for those big bass blow-ups!

Mosquito Fern

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Plants are present in the spring as tiny spores but not yet visible to the naked eye. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Summer—Plants will rapidly break up at branching points and form numerous new plants. The result is colonies of mosquito fern that will begin to become visible to the naked eye. Colonies will become apparent in late summer and offer up some great topwater fishing. Throw a buzzbait or other top-water moving bait and wait for those big bass blow-ups!

Fall—By early fall, mosquito fern colonies will span entire coves and quiet backwater areas. Colonies will be much thicker by mid-fall. Throw weedless topwater baits capable of maneuvering across large colonies. Fish can easily break through mosquito fern to take down prey.

Winter—Plants will rapidly die with reproductive parts sinking to the bottom. These reproductive portions will again rise in the spring to create new plants. Fishing benefit is negligible during this time.

Habitat Value

Fish—Provides habitat for many species consumed by insectivorous fishes.

Waterfowl—No known food value for waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What it Looks Like—A tiny water fern, native mosquito fern is easily identifiable by its Christmas-tree shape. In fall, large colonies of mosquito fern will turn dark red creating a crimson look to large areas.

Where to Find It—Mosquito fern prefers calm water areas in the backs of creeks and embayments. Is often mixed with duckweed species.

Similar Species—Similar in size to duckweeds but is easily distinguishable by shape and color.

Drawbacks

Mosquito fern can inhibit some water uses and management is often needed when colonies grow to nuisance levels. 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.