June 24, 2021
When I fished the lake last week there was a moderate patch of water lilies just off the shore. While fishing these patches of aquatic cover can be taxing at time due to snags, I have always found them stocked with small fish. I found this bed no different as I tossed my bobber on the outside corner of the pads. I quickly caught fish, but not the larger fish I was looking for. I did not pay much attention to the catch until the third or fourth fish. That was when I noticed I was catching small crappie rather than the bluegill I had expected. I guess the protection and food provided by the lilies was just as good for the crappie as it was for the bluegill.
When I looked online, I identified these lilies as the Yellow Water Lily (Nuphar lutea). This is a common plant in our area that thrives in still or slow-moving water, growing in ponds, lakes, canals, and ditches. It has large, lily-pad leaves that are up to 16 inches (40cm) across and grows in water up to 9 feet (3m) deep. The leaves and flowers float at the surface, while the rest of the plant is submerged, growing from the mud bottom. The Yellow water lily flowers during the summer, from June to September, and smells like the dregs of wine, giving it common names like ‘Brandy Bottle’. Mine did not smell.
While invasive in some areas, water lilies are native and beneficial in other areas. The lilies may become invasive if they are allowed to grow unchecked. A single rhizome can reproduce and grow to cover an area 15 feet in diameter in as little as 15 years. When spread to non-native habitats, water lilies can shade the water and make it too cold for native species of fish and plants. Water lilies also compete with native plants for nutrients. In moderate growths and native habitats, the lilies are a great benefit by providing shelter for fish and shade to keep the water cool. Water lilies provide safe spaces for frogs to perch on their leaves as they hide from underwater predators. Lilies also produce natural oxygen that allows fish to breathe and beneficial bacteria to thrive. Seems “everything in moderation” is the key.
Thoughts: Another online site I found chastised anglers (like me) who shy away from fishing the interior of the lilies. Lilies provide bluegills with all the amenities: protection, food, and oxygen. The tangled vegetation keeps most of us along the edges, while the big fish are often deep in the greenery. I watched a Bass fishing show awhile back that showed the same thing, as the angler tossed three feet into a weed bed to bring out the big bass feasting on bluegills. Most tend to shy away from things they do not know. That was true with fishing the interior of the lilies for me. When the unknown is faced and understood, we may find it provides great benefits. That is true for both different people and new practices. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.