Wood and Weeds
Drowned wood, lay downs, brush plies composed of fir, pine, oak and maple typically lasts for years. By contrast birch, aspen and poplar provide cover for two to three years before decomposing to remnants. Drowned wood is terrific cover. The more complex the branches below the surface the better for fish. More branches more cover for a game fish to ambush prey. Finding “good” drowned wood means finding good walleye fishing.
Weeds and weed line edges are important throughout the fishing season as they (along with gravel bottoms) are used for spawning in spring; shelter, cover and foraging in summer/fall and feeding in winter for all game fish. When fishing the weeds always keep in mind the “cover within cover” principle – weed points, edges, deep weed lines, transitions from one weed species to the next, channels, clumps and inside turns among others.
Types of Weeds
The presence of aquatic plants is one of the best indicators of whether a lake or a stream will be a good producer of fish. Most aquatic life which fish feed upon requires these plants for food. Plants also provide a fishery with protective cover and life-giving oxygen. Aquatic plants are classified into floating, emergent, submerged and algae varieties as each type has slightly different features.
Floating plants are not rooted and are free to move about the water’s surface. The main habitat for floating plants are backwater areas on rivers and streams where the current slackens and protected bays on lakes and flowages. In limited water movement area’s floating plants can be mixed in with other emergent and submerged plants forming what is commonly called “slop” by creating a surface mat that attracts largemouth bass, in deeper waters slop will hold northern pike and muskie. Fishing slop is extremely fun when the fish are on and you have the right set-up and lures. Fishing the slop requires heavy tackle and line to horse the fish out of cover. Baitcasting reels spooled with low stretch 17lb to 30lb test line, rods rated heavy with fast action are recommended. Lure choices include weedless soft plastics, worms and lizards using heavy sinkers to penetrate the thick vegetation, top water frog and rat imitations are excellent for surface slop fishing, there is nothing more exciting when a bass explodes on one of these. The common North American native floating plants are Duckweed, Bladderwort and Watermeal.
An emergent plant are a rooted shallow water plant found along shorelines areas, which grows in the water but the stems stand above the surface. All emergent plants flower which allows the reproductive process through pollination by wind or by flying insects. Emergent plants provide an important function on the water’s edge that creates a network root system which resists erosion, where wave action and water flow might undercut banks and a barrier for shoreline sediment. These plants create habitat and food supply for many species of insect, fish, bird, and mammal. The most common North American emergent plants are Lily Pads, Bulrushes and Cattails.
White Water Lily Pads
The lily pad is a perennial flat leafed flowering rooted plant that grows in groups. For the most part they are found along shallower waters in sandy or soft bottomed areas. In clear water that can grow up to six to eight feet. The lily pad leaves are more rounded than heart shaped, bright green from 6-12 inches in diameter with a slit about the 1/3 of the leaf. The leaves float on the surface, the flower grow on separate stalks displaying brilliant white petals with a yellow center and are very fragrant. The flower opens each morning and closes as the sun goes down. A favorite habitat for largemouth bass. However many other species such as northern pike and muskies can be found in the lily pads as well.
There are several species of bulrushes known as reeds and pencil reeds. Bulrushes are perennial rooted grass-like plants and can grow to 10 feet tall in shallow water or in moist soils. Reeds generally grow on firm bottoms, bulrush grows in softer mud bottoms. The bulrush brownish flowers appears just below the tip of the stem. Reeds and bulrush provides excellent fish habitat and spawning areas for northern pike and, in early spring, provide nesting cover for largemouth bass and bluegills. Bulrushes attract marsh birds and songbirds. Seeds of bulrushes are consumed by ducks and other birds.
Cattails are found in marshes, ditches, shorelines, shallow areas of lakes, ponds, and slow streams, quiet water up to 4 feet deep. They have slightly twisted rounded leaves, and can grow to 5 or 10 feet in height. Cattails are easily identified by their fuzzy brown cigar shaped flower (called the catkin) near the top of the stalk. Cattails spread rapidly when the catkin releases the seeds blowing in the wind or floating on the water’s surface. The cattail habitat helps stabilize marshy borders of lakes and ponds; helps protect shorelines from wave erosion; northern pike may spawn along shore behind the cattail fringe; provides cover and nesting sites for waterfowl and marsh birds such as the red-winged blackbird, stalks and roots are eaten by muskrats and beavers.