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

Water Hyacinth

During a small window of time when invasive water hyacinth plants (Eichhornia crassipes) are dispersed, mats can be punched with heavy punch baits; however once plants form dense colonies, fishing them can be nearly impossible.

Water Hyacinth

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Native to the tropics, water hyacinth rarely overwinters in TVA system to continue growth in spring. Most often, new plants are a result of aquarium dumps in summer. Water hyacinth is seldom present in spring.

Summer—One of the fastest-growing plants known, water hyacinth will rapidly grow and expand in size, producing new plants resulting in large floating colonies. Rapid growth of water hyacinth makes fishing difficult. During a small window of time when plants are dispersed, mats can be punched with heavy punch baits; however once plants form dense colonies, fishing them can be nearly impossible. Colony edges offer the most productive fishing during summer. Use any heavy flipping bait to work the holes found on the outside of water hyacinth colonies.

Fall—As winter approaches, water hyacinth will slow growth and new plant production. As plants begin to decay in late fall, holes can be fished with punch baits within the once-dense colonies.

Winter—Water hyacinth will only be present as dormant seed in the winter, therefore targeting this species should be avoided. In mild winters, water hyacinth seed may remain viable to produce new plants in the spring.

Habitat Value

Fish—Water hyacinth can falsely be believed to be great fish habitat; however the rapid and aggressive growth of the plant can produce biological wastelands. It’s dense colonies will shade out more desirable native species that can provide critical submersed structure. Fish will often congregate on the edges of these colonies where ambushing prey is more easily achieved.

Waterfowl—Any habitat value of water hyacinth to waterfowl is unknown.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Water hyacinth is a free-floating plant that can grow as tall as three feet. Leaves are circular and born from bulbous stalks attached to large, often dark-purplish roots.

Where to Find It—This plant prefers quiet backwater areas but will travel almost anywhere dependent on wind direction and current.

Similar Species—Water hyacinth is often confused with frog’s bit; however hyacinth stalks are bulbous in appearance whereas frog’s bit stems are slender. Hyacinth also has a large, purplish root mass whereas frog’s bit roots are white.

Drawbacks

Water hyacinth is a major problem throughout much of the southern United States. Large colonies have completely halted water use. Management of the plant can be very difficult as the plant can spread via seed or fragmentation. Cost to manage: $$$$$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Water Hyacinth

During a small window of time when invasive water hyacinth plants (Eichhornia crassipes) are dispersed, mats can be punched with heavy punch baits; however once plants form dense colonies, fishing them can be nearly impossible.

Water Hyacinth

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Native to the tropics, water hyacinth rarely overwinters in TVA system to continue growth in spring. Most often, new plants are a result of aquarium dumps in summer. Water hyacinth is seldom present in spring.

Summer—One of the fastest-growing plants known, water hyacinth will rapidly grow and expand in size, producing new plants resulting in large floating colonies. Rapid growth of water hyacinth makes fishing difficult. During a small window of time when plants are dispersed, mats can be punched with heavy punch baits; however once plants form dense colonies, fishing them can be nearly impossible. Colony edges offer the most productive fishing during summer. Use any heavy flipping bait to work the holes found on the outside of water hyacinth colonies.

Fall—As winter approaches, water hyacinth will slow growth and new plant production. As plants begin to decay in late fall, holes can be fished with punch baits within the once-dense colonies.

Winter—Water hyacinth will only be present as dormant seed in the winter, therefore targeting this species should be avoided. In mild winters, water hyacinth seed may remain viable to produce new plants in the spring.

Habitat Value

Fish—Water hyacinth can falsely be believed to be great fish habitat; however the rapid and aggressive growth of the plant can produce biological wastelands. It’s dense colonies will shade out more desirable native species that can provide critical submersed structure. Fish will often congregate on the edges of these colonies where ambushing prey is more easily achieved.

Waterfowl—Any habitat value of water hyacinth to waterfowl is unknown.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Water hyacinth is a free-floating plant that can grow as tall as three feet. Leaves are circular and born from bulbous stalks attached to large, often dark-purplish roots.

Where to Find It—This plant prefers quiet backwater areas but will travel almost anywhere dependent on wind direction and current.

Similar Species—Water hyacinth is often confused with frog’s bit; however hyacinth stalks are bulbous in appearance whereas frog’s bit stems are slender. Hyacinth also has a large, purplish root mass whereas frog’s bit roots are white.

Drawbacks

Water hyacinth is a major problem throughout much of the southern United States. Large colonies have completely halted water use. Management of the plant can be very difficult as the plant can spread via seed or fragmentation. Cost to manage: $$$$$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Water Hyacinth

During a small window of time when invasive water hyacinth plants (Eichhornia crassipes) are dispersed, mats can be punched with heavy punch baits; however once plants form dense colonies, fishing them can be nearly impossible.

Water Hyacinth

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Native to the tropics, water hyacinth rarely overwinters in TVA system to continue growth in spring. Most often, new plants are a result of aquarium dumps in summer. Water hyacinth is seldom present in spring.

Summer—One of the fastest-growing plants known, water hyacinth will rapidly grow and expand in size, producing new plants resulting in large floating colonies. Rapid growth of water hyacinth makes fishing difficult. During a small window of time when plants are dispersed, mats can be punched with heavy punch baits; however once plants form dense colonies, fishing them can be nearly impossible. Colony edges offer the most productive fishing during summer. Use any heavy flipping bait to work the holes found on the outside of water hyacinth colonies.

Fall—As winter approaches, water hyacinth will slow growth and new plant production. As plants begin to decay in late fall, holes can be fished with punch baits within the once-dense colonies.

Winter—Water hyacinth will only be present as dormant seed in the winter, therefore targeting this species should be avoided. In mild winters, water hyacinth seed may remain viable to produce new plants in the spring.

Habitat Value

Fish—Water hyacinth can falsely be believed to be great fish habitat; however the rapid and aggressive growth of the plant can produce biological wastelands. It’s dense colonies will shade out more desirable native species that can provide critical submersed structure. Fish will often congregate on the edges of these colonies where ambushing prey is more easily achieved.

Waterfowl—Any habitat value of water hyacinth to waterfowl is unknown.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Water hyacinth is a free-floating plant that can grow as tall as three feet. Leaves are circular and born from bulbous stalks attached to large, often dark-purplish roots.

Where to Find It—This plant prefers quiet backwater areas but will travel almost anywhere dependent on wind direction and current.

Similar Species—Water hyacinth is often confused with frog’s bit; however hyacinth stalks are bulbous in appearance whereas frog’s bit stems are slender. Hyacinth also has a large, purplish root mass whereas frog’s bit roots are white.

Drawbacks

Water hyacinth is a major problem throughout much of the southern United States. Large colonies have completely halted water use. Management of the plant can be very difficult as the plant can spread via seed or fragmentation. 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.