NORTH IOWA OUTDOORS: Late Summer Underwater Aquatic Plant Control for Ponds

A healthy pond needs aquatic plants, but too many can upset a fishing pond’s balance and become a nuisance. Many pond owners struggle with how to control the amount of aquatic plants, without completely removing all of them, so they can enjoy their pond.

Pond owners can use herbicides to kill underwater plants, but their growing season is almost over. Pond rakes or cutters, although more labor intensive, are perfect this time of year to control aquatic plants in small areas to create fishing lanes, swimming areas and dock access. Pond rakes tear plants from the bottom and let you remove them from near shore or around docks.  Attach a float to the rake to let it skim and remove plants and moss or algae from the surface.

Cutters sink to the bottom and cut the plant stems as it is dragged back, making the plants float to the top. The pond plants are often carried away by the wind or you can pick them up with a floating rake. 

Use a long-handled rake or cutter with a long reach that you can throw and pull back. You can use these handy tools for many years, and they cost less than a gallon of some aquatic herbicides.  Local hardware or pool stores may carry these, or try an online search for “pond rake or cutter.” 

A few tips to remember: 

  • Many plants spread by fragmentation, so if growth is not throughout the pond, do not use these methods. 
  • Once out of the water, let the plants dry out before moving them too far. This will greatly lighten your load.
  • Obey State Law. Don’t haul the plants off your property; you cannot transport aquatic vegetation in Iowa. Once out of the water, leave the plants onshore to dry and compost or move dried plants to your garden where they make excellent mulch.  
  • Lakeshore property owners on a public lake can physically remove a 15 foot wide path of vegetation for navigation to the main lake without a permit; you cannot use herbicides to remove the aquatic plants in a publicly-owned lake. Contact the DNR fisheries office in your area if you have questions.

Learn more about aquatic plants in ponds at www.iowadnr.gov/pondplants.