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Brad Laabs column: Weeds can be an angler's best friend

Summer fishing success can be improved for multiple species if you learn to fish in and around weed areas.

Some fish are always relating to the weeds. Not all weeds are created equal when it comes to holding fish, and in my experience, cabbage weeds are the best fish producers. Weeds provide shade, higher oxygen levels, and most importantly, food. Because of these factors, predator fish like musky, bass, northern pike, and walleye will take advantage of what the weeds have to offer.

It is helpful to learn a few weed basics for the weeds that grow in our area. Almost everyone is familiar with the emergent weeds such as bulrush, lily pads, rice beds, and cattails. These weeds have always been known to be good "bassy" areas, but depending on the location and the water depths adjacent to of some of these patches, others predator fish will use these as feeding areas and cover as well.

The next batch of weeds to get familiar with are the submergent weeds. These include (but are not limited to) cabbage, curly leaf pondweed, coontail, sand grass (official name chara), and milfoil.

The cabbage weed is important to identify because, as I have experience, it is one of the most productive fish-holding weeds. The broadleaf cabbage always reminds me of a corn stalk-looking type plant that grows very tall. Many times you can look down and see the tops of these growing to within a few feet of the surface of the water.

The leaves are about seven inches long and about an inch and a half wide. The inside edge of the cabbage will be at about 8-9 feet of water with the outside edge being as deep as 14 feet.

The curly leaf pondweed is another type of cabbage. It is invasive in many lakes now. It always looks to me like sick broad leaf cabbage. The leaves are wavy, course, about five inches long, and about three-quarters of an inch wide. It will usually grow to about 10 feet of water with the inside edge at about 7 feet.

Coontail is thick and stringy. It can be very long and looks like a raccoon's tail (hence the clever name). It also looks to me like the way pine needles grow around a branch when trying to describe it to someone. It can grow out to as deep as 30 feet in some bodies of water, but most of the time will be on the outside of the cabbage weeds in the 14-20 foot depths.

If you find these weeds along a sharp break to deeper water, close to cabbage weeds, you have a good fish location. Fish the deep outside edge, the inside edge or over the tops of the weeds to contact fish.

Sand grass is a great weed to find in two primary areas. Sand grass will grow on hard sand bottom areas in 5-12 feet of water and can be on the outside edges of other weeds on the bottom in up to 30 feet of water.

It blankets a few inches of the bottom and is a very coarse and wire-like mesh of a weed. Bait fish use the sand grass to hide and feed, and so naturally, gamefish will relate to these areas blanketed by the sand grass. Some varieties of the sand grass can have an unpleasant odor and are sometimes called "skunk weed." I like the stuff that doesn't smell when it comes to locating fish.

There are several types of milfoil, and the Eurasian milfoil is an invasive species. Milfoil can grow as deep as 30 feet. These plants are rooted and can be tough to get out of at times. The tiny leaves grow around the stem and are shaped like veins on a feather. It has long been known that bass and northern love to use the milfoil weed for feeding. Learning to fish the thick weed takes practice and patience, but can provide some rewards for your efforts.

Learn to fish in, around, and above the weeds for some summer success!

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)