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Native coontail (Ceratopyllum demersum) gets its name from its appearance. It absorbs nutrients from the water, helping improve water clarity in some cases, and provides food and water for fish and wildlife.



Coontail is a non-rooted submersed aquatic plant with multiple-branched stems as long as 10 feet. Leaves are whorled in groups of 5 to 12 and have dichotomously dissected segments about 1 inch long with small marginal teeth along one side. Coontail has separate male and female flowers.


Coontail is a native plant found in lakes, pond, and slow-moving waters throughout the United States. Since it does not have functional roots, coontail is often found in association with other submersed aquatic species which provide anchorage for them. Coontail is widely distributed throughout the Tennessee Valley region.

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.

Seasonal Fishing Techniques

Spring—Unlike many of the other submersed species, a lack of roots makes coontail highly mobile. The plant is free-floating, so wind shifts and currents can move entire populations in spring. Focus 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—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.


Native coontail rarely impacts water use in reservoirs.

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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.