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Aquatic Plant ID

They go by different names. You may call them “weeds,” “grass” or “moss.” 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, cover and ambush areas for largemouth bass or food source for the multitude of local waterfowl.

This guide provides information to help you understand when these plants are most productive, where they grow and—most importantly—help you identify them. Whether you are an angler, property owner or any other lake user, we invite you to learn more about the aquatic plants present in our Tennessee Valley region reservoirs.

The guide also offers season-by-season tips for fishing among these plants.

Floating and Floating Leaf Plants

Common Cattail

Waterfowl and other shoreline birds eat the seeds of the native common cattail (Typha latifolia) and use the plant for nesting.

Common Cattail

Description

Common cattail is a stout perennial that grows 3 to 9 feet tall. It has creeping rhizomes, erect stems and long, flat leaves which cover the base of the jointless stem. Male and female flowers are separate on a cylindrical spike. The lower portion, which is dense brown and up to 8 inches long, contains the female flowers with pistils. The upper portion, which is narrower and up to 5 inches long, contains the male flowers with the stamens. Long hairs extend under both male and female flowers, which lack sepals and petals.

Habitat

Common cattail is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. This species occurs throughout the United States, where it is found in shallow bays, ponds, lake margins, ditches and moist areas. Some waterfowl and wading birds use cattail colonies as cover for raising their young. The plant is widespread in the Tennessee Valley region.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Cattail is easily recognized by the large brown, fluffy flower cylinder atop its tall stems.

Where to Find It—Cattail can be found most often in the back of coves and wetland areas around a reservoir.

Similar Species—The leaves and stem of cattail can look similar to giant cutgrass from a distance; however, cattail leaves grow from a single base whereas cutgrass appears to originate from multiple locations within the sediment.

Seasonal Fishing Techniques

Spring—Cattails exist mostly as rhizomes throughout early spring, but new growth can lend to edge fishing around the shoreline. By mid-spring, the plants have grown new leaves. Use a soft plastic stick bait, lizard or fluke to pitch up around actively growing plants.

Summer—As the plants begin growing in summer, producing the distinctive brown cylinder common of the species, baitfish will begin to congregate nearby feeding off of the invertebrates present among cattail stands. Bass will be nearby to pick off such schools of baitfish, so try fishing a swimbait or shallow running crankbait in areas around cattails.

Fall—In early fall as the flowers begin to dry up and fall off, the plant will produce seeds connected to bits of white fluff, which allow them to be spread by the wind. A single plant can produce more than a quarter million seeds. As cattail begins to decay, areas of open water will begin to open around the thick stands of summer. Use a jig to pitch back into pockets formed between stands of cattail.

Winter—In early winter, cattail leaves begin to decay and fall off. The living plant retreats within the rhizome to await sprouting the following spring. Although dead, some stalks of cattail will remain in the winter, creating habitat for invertebrates and smaller fish. Fish deeper water nearby with a jerk bait or rattle trap resembling such bait species.

Drawbacks

Although native and highly valuable as habitat, Cattail can become a nuisance in some high-use areas where boats and swimming are desired.

Shoreline Plants

Common Cattail

Waterfowl and other shoreline birds eat the seeds of the native common cattail (Typha latifolia) and use the plant for nesting.

Common Cattail

Description

Common cattail is a stout perennial that grows 3 to 9 feet tall. It has creeping rhizomes, erect stems and long, flat leaves which cover the base of the jointless stem. Male and female flowers are separate on a cylindrical spike. The lower portion, which is dense brown and up to 8 inches long, contains the female flowers with pistils. The upper portion, which is narrower and up to 5 inches long, contains the male flowers with the stamens. Long hairs extend under both male and female flowers, which lack sepals and petals.

Habitat

Common cattail is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. This species occurs throughout the United States, where it is found in shallow bays, ponds, lake margins, ditches and moist areas. Some waterfowl and wading birds use cattail colonies as cover for raising their young. The plant is widespread in the Tennessee Valley region.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Cattail is easily recognized by the large brown, fluffy flower cylinder atop its tall stems.

Where to Find It—Cattail can be found most often in the back of coves and wetland areas around a reservoir.

Similar Species—The leaves and stem of cattail can look similar to giant cutgrass from a distance; however, cattail leaves grow from a single base whereas cutgrass appears to originate from multiple locations within the sediment.

Seasonal Fishing Techniques

Spring—Cattails exist mostly as rhizomes throughout early spring, but new growth can lend to edge fishing around the shoreline. By mid-spring, the plants have grown new leaves. Use a soft plastic stick bait, lizard or fluke to pitch up around actively growing plants.

Summer—As the plants begin growing in summer, producing the distinctive brown cylinder common of the species, baitfish will begin to congregate nearby feeding off of the invertebrates present among cattail stands. Bass will be nearby to pick off such schools of baitfish, so try fishing a swimbait or shallow running crankbait in areas around cattails.

Fall—In early fall as the flowers begin to dry up and fall off, the plant will produce seeds connected to bits of white fluff, which allow them to be spread by the wind. A single plant can produce more than a quarter million seeds. As cattail begins to decay, areas of open water will begin to open around the thick stands of summer. Use a jig to pitch back into pockets formed between stands of cattail.

Winter—In early winter, cattail leaves begin to decay and fall off. The living plant retreats within the rhizome to await sprouting the following spring. Although dead, some stalks of cattail will remain in the winter, creating habitat for invertebrates and smaller fish. Fish deeper water nearby with a jerk bait or rattle trap resembling such bait species.

Drawbacks

Although native and highly valuable as habitat, Cattail can become a nuisance in some high-use areas where boats and swimming are desired.

Submersed Plants

Common Cattail

Waterfowl and other shoreline birds eat the seeds of the native common cattail (Typha latifolia) and use the plant for nesting.

Common Cattail

Description

Common cattail is a stout perennial that grows 3 to 9 feet tall. It has creeping rhizomes, erect stems and long, flat leaves which cover the base of the jointless stem. Male and female flowers are separate on a cylindrical spike. The lower portion, which is dense brown and up to 8 inches long, contains the female flowers with pistils. The upper portion, which is narrower and up to 5 inches long, contains the male flowers with the stamens. Long hairs extend under both male and female flowers, which lack sepals and petals.

Habitat

Common cattail is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. This species occurs throughout the United States, where it is found in shallow bays, ponds, lake margins, ditches and moist areas. Some waterfowl and wading birds use cattail colonies as cover for raising their young. The plant is widespread in the Tennessee Valley region.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Cattail is easily recognized by the large brown, fluffy flower cylinder atop its tall stems.

Where to Find It—Cattail can be found most often in the back of coves and wetland areas around a reservoir.

Similar Species—The leaves and stem of cattail can look similar to giant cutgrass from a distance; however, cattail leaves grow from a single base whereas cutgrass appears to originate from multiple locations within the sediment.

Seasonal Fishing Techniques

Spring—Cattails exist mostly as rhizomes throughout early spring, but new growth can lend to edge fishing around the shoreline. By mid-spring, the plants have grown new leaves. Use a soft plastic stick bait, lizard or fluke to pitch up around actively growing plants.

Summer—As the plants begin growing in summer, producing the distinctive brown cylinder common of the species, baitfish will begin to congregate nearby feeding off of the invertebrates present among cattail stands. Bass will be nearby to pick off such schools of baitfish, so try fishing a swimbait or shallow running crankbait in areas around cattails.

Fall—In early fall as the flowers begin to dry up and fall off, the plant will produce seeds connected to bits of white fluff, which allow them to be spread by the wind. A single plant can produce more than a quarter million seeds. As cattail begins to decay, areas of open water will begin to open around the thick stands of summer. Use a jig to pitch back into pockets formed between stands of cattail.

Winter—In early winter, cattail leaves begin to decay and fall off. The living plant retreats within the rhizome to await sprouting the following spring. Although dead, some stalks of cattail will remain in the winter, creating habitat for invertebrates and smaller fish. Fish deeper water nearby with a jerk bait or rattle trap resembling such bait species.

Drawbacks

Although native and highly valuable as habitat, Cattail can become a nuisance in some high-use areas where boats and swimming are desired.