Submerged plants are completely underwater and are generally rooted in the bottom sediment. If flowers exist, they may extend above the surface of the water. Submerged plants exchange carbon dioxide for dissolved oxygen during the periods of photosynthesis which provides a relatively stable source of oxygen for a water based ecosystem. Submerged weeds make up the majority of fishing cover (weed flats and weedlines) that will attract walleye and northern pike. The submerged weed family consist of hundreds of species many introduced or exotic that grow prolifically and are considered to problematic in many lakes, rivers and streams. An example of this is Eurasian Watermilfoil
Most fishing articles relating to weeds refer to names such as cabbage, coontail, and eel grass. The following information is a guide for identifying the most common submerged plants that will attract game fish.
Claspingleaf Pondweed (Cabbage)
This plant is known to anglers as cabbage and has over 50 varieties in North America. Cabbage is both a deep and shallow water weed that has broad leaves and a brittle stems. They vary in colors from brownish red called tobacco cabbage to a light green leaf. Cabbage is the preferred choice of many large game fish and the most productive. Cabbage is also known as pike weed, muskie weed, and celery.
Coontail or also know as hornwort, is a dark olive green bushy submerged perennial plant that grows in clumps or dense colonies that forms a canopy type cover in shallow water. The tips of branches are crowded with leaves giving it a “coontail” appearance. The submerged colonies of coontail provides excellent habitat and cover for bait fish as well as other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.) which attracts most predator game fish. The fruits of coontail are consumed by ducks and it is considered a good wildlife food.
Eelgrass is a rooted shallow water plant found in flowing water. It has long, thin, ribbon-like leaves (1/2 – 3/4 inches wide) that are commonly 3 to 4 feet long. The vein pattern in the leaves of eelgrass is very distinctive and resembles celery. Eelgrass forms dense colonies dominating other submerged plants to grow. The submerged portions of eel grass provides dense underwater structure as an excellent habitat for bait fish and invertebrates. Northern pike favor eelgrass during the summer months. Other common names include: Tape grass and wild celery.
Elodea is a rooted multi-branched perennial submerged plant that grows in cool fertile water to depths of approximately 10 feet. It is identified by its deep green color with 3 to 4 leaves attached directly to the stem. This weed develops quickly and provides good early season action, it attracts bait fish and bass along with other large game fish. Elodea has no known direct food value to wildlife but is used extensively by insects and invertebrates. Other common names include: Waterweed and walleye weed.
Algae are a basic water plant, some are composed of tiny single cells that float or suspend in the water giving a green, brown, or at times a red color to the water known as “bloom.” Others are multi celled that forms a thin and stringy or hair-like dark green slime commonly know as pond scum. While still others resemble submerged plants but without a true root system this is known as sandgrass. Algae although primitive, provides benefits to water systems by stabilizing bottom sediments and giving cover for small animals such as aquatic insects, snails, and scuds, which are valuable fish food.
Planktonic algae, are floating microscopic single celled plants usually existing suspended in the upper few feet of water often reaching bloom proportions during the summer months based on temperature, light, nutrients making the water appear brownish or pea soup green.
Filamentous algae are multi-celled that form into a mat of long chains or threads called filaments that resembles wet wool. Filamentous algae starts growing along the bottom in shallow water appearing fur-like, attaching to rocks, drowned wood, and other aquatic plants. As the production of oxygen increases it will float to the surface forming large mats, known as “Pond Scum.” Filamentous algae has no direct food value to wildlife.
Chara is the most advanced plant of the algae family though often confused with submerged plants. Chara commonly know as “sandgrass” is gray-green, branched with no root system, it grows in short thick mats, covering the lake bottom like a carpet. It can grow to depths of 30 feet, but is more common in shallower water. The stems/branches are brittle and hollow with rough ends, when crushed it emits a foul musty garlic like odor, often why it is called muskgrass or skunkweed. Sandgrass is beneficial promoting water clarity and lake bottom stabilization. During the mid summer through fall, walleyes and perch will be found on sandgrass flats.