Milfoil – Friend or Foe?

The author looking over a milfoil bed.

Eurasian water milfoil is a fast-growing aquatic plant that infests man-made and natural lakes alike. It can grow to a depth of fifteen feet or so, forming a dense, near impenetrable mat which can be hazardous to trolling motors while providing a superb ambush site for hungry bass.

The water temperature below a milfoil patch is considerably cooler than the surface water or open water. For bass fishermen, this is great news! But on the flip side of the coin, milfoil is considered to be an aggressive invader that causes problems for boaters and interferes with the spawning of many species.

Milfoil grows rapidly in Spring, as soon as the water temperature reaches somewhere in the fifty-degree range, starting in the shallows and reaching outward into the lake’s deeper water. It grows profusely until it creates a canopy on top of the water, but because the mat on top of the water prevents sunlight from penetrating down to the lower parts of the plant, the lower leaves fall off, leaving the floating vegetation on top.

Bass gravitate to milfoil and often spawn on the inside edges in or near coves, creek channels and protected areas. Post spawn bass moves further out into the milfoil expanses, quite often on the edges between compacted milfoil and sparse milfoil. A good place to explore is any clump of visible milfoil with minnows or sunfish cruising nearby, or points, small pockets, inside turns and any irregular edge on the outside of the milfoil beds.

The open areas where the milfoil does not grow are where actively feeding fish can be found, while the dense weeds will hold the best fish during sunny and/or hazy days.

Most people who have fished milfoil either love it or hate it, lure choice is critical to the enjoyment of fishing milfoil beds. Boaters generally prefer to fish milfoil with jigs in a vertical presentation, buzz baits, or frog baits, while shore fishermen explore the weedy flotillas with texas rigged worms, and weedless spoons. Buzz baits are quite effective early in the year before the milfoil has had a chance to form a solid canopy.

Don’t be afraid to use heavy tackle here, because once a good bass gets wrapped up in the milfoil you might be bringing in ten pounds of weeds with a four-pound bass. You’ll need some stout gear to get your fish up near the surface as quickly as possible, or you’ll lose the bass in the thick mat.

Milfoil provides anglers with some exciting action through late Summer. Next time you see some of this thick vegetation, don’t pass it by, give it a thorough working over. Remembering to work the holes, inside turns, outside turns, clumps, edges, and flats with any irregularities; you’ll be glad you did!

Interested in other articles by Mark Toth on fishing? Read Finding Hidden Fishing Treasures, Basic Ditch Fishing, Strategies for Ditch Fishing, My Approach to Slop Fishing, and Packing for Mobility. These articles may be found under Bass Fishing Articles, in the Bass Fishing General Tips category.

Mark Toth, The Ditch Fishing Chronicles

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