Knowing vegetation benefits anglers

Who knew a green thumb would come in handy for a fisherman?

Many varieties of terrestrial wildlife live in and around vegetation. Few animals flourish in locations with scant plant life.

The same is true in the fish world. Many species are attracted to aquatic plants. And just as on the land, there are a few species such as white bass and trout that prefer the wide-open waters like a pronghorn antelope prefers the treeless prairie.

Anglers succeed with regularity in and near vegetation. It pays, therefore, to understand the plants that grow in and up through water. What does their location say about the surrounding lake bottom and what is their potential for holding fish?

If you have ever walked along a mowed clearing where it meets the woods or a farm field where it butts up to a fence line, you have noticed that’s where you’ll see more rabbits. The same locations are where deer linger until they feel secure about wandering out to graze on fresh grass or farmers’ corn and soybeans.

That’s the deal, too, with fish.

Bass, crappies, perch, sunfish, northern pike, muskies, walleyes and a plethora of baitfish live in and next to plants. They especially like to hang around the edges, where they can hide when resting or under threat and then easily swim out to grab a bite to eat.

It’s advisable for anglers to focus their fishing time on the edges where the underwater grasses provide quick shelter and happy hunting.

Coontail is a common plant in lakes around Youngstown. It’s particularly well established in Mosquito and West Branch, and periodically sprouts at Milton and Pymatuning.

When you find coontail, you’ll likely find fish. Interestingly, it’s rootless and can form dense colonies that top out to create canopies. As you might guess, fish that like overhead cover love coontail. They can swim under the canopy and feel secure from birds of prey such as ospreys, eagles and cormorants, and enjoy the coolness of the shade.

While coontail is native to our region, Eurasian milfoil is considered an invasive species. It has taken hold in several of our area waterways. It can spread easily by boats transported from lake to lake. Fish like it, but as habitat it is not as effective as coontail.

Hydrilla is another invasive plant species that has become established in Northeast Ohio. Like coontail, it forms dense mats, which, while good as fish cover, can choke waterways to the point where boating is difficult.

Milfoil and hydrilla are easily transported and compete aggressively with native species, so Ohio officials have advised boaters to clean their boats and trailers of the greenery before towing out to another lake.

American elodea is one of the good species. It provides a variety of fish-attracting advantages, and it actually belongs in our local waterways.

Also native are water lilies. They root in bottom sediment and form large areas of shade and shelter for fish, amphibians, insects and even small mammals.

Anglers who learn how to pinpoint the location of bass and other fish in aquatic vegetation quickly up their success rates.

Study the plants in your favorite lake and you’ll almost certainly discover your green thumb comes in mighty handy in putting fish on your hooks.

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