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How to Kill Cattails Without Killing Fish

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Waders

  • Plastic horticulture gloves

  • Gasoline powdered trimmer (optional)

  • Handheld shares

Cattails are commonly found in ponds. These water loving plants have slender and long stalks that can reach 10 feet in height. During late summer and fall, a brown seed head develops and it is from this that the plant received its name. Small areas of cattails will provide shelter for aquatic creatures and look pleasing to the eye, but this aquatic plant will spread very quickly if left unmanaged. Cattails are able to overgrow an entire pond in a matter of years. This plant can fortunately be controlled by physical removal and trimmed, neither method poses a threat to fish.

Pull on a pair of waders and put on a pair of plastic horticulture gloves.

Wade into the pond and begin to pull out the cattail plants one by one. The cattails will be growing close to bank initially and the water in this region should be shallow.

Bend down to the substrate, if the water is shallow enough, and pull up as much of the root system as possible. Cattails have extensive root systems and spread quickly by sending runners out through the mud or soil on the bottom of the pond. New growth which is not higher than six inches above the water surface can easily be pulled from its growing position without much effort.

Trim or cut off all new shoots as they break the water surface. This is an alternative to physically removing the entire plant and negates the need to reach to the bottom of the pond.

Use a gasoline-powered trimmer to remove new growth at the water surface if the area under cattails is very extensive or if most of the plants are established. Electrical equipment should not be used close to the water as there is a danger of potential electrocution.

Use handheld shares to remove new growth at the water surface if the area that has been colonized by cattails is not too extensive. The goal of removing new growth is to destroy the leaves before they reach maturity, at which stage they supply the root system with nutrients and the plant spreads, as the root system invades new parts of the pond bottom.