Leftover natural trees provide late Christmas gifts for Arkansas fishOriginally Published January 10, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 8, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission asks Arkansas residents to donate leftover natural Christmas trees to lakes throughout Arkansas to give fish within those lakes a new home.
Steve “Wildman” Wilson, public affairs coordinator with the commission, said the tree-sinking project has been in place for several years.
The project gathers leftover natural Christmas trees to sink in lakes for fish to hide in and around. According to the commission, the trees can be dropped off at various locations through Jan. 23. Participants may pick up trees from these locations and can tie either a rock or a cinderblock to the ends of a tree, then sink the tree in a body of water for the fish to use as a habitat or shelter.
At Greers Ferry Lake, trees can be dropped off at the Sandy Beach area in Heber Springs, the Devils Fork Recreation Area in Greers Ferry and the Choctaw Recreation Area in Clinton. Another drop-off location in the Three Rivers region is the Reed Access area of Lake Barnett.
Wilson said fishermen can pick up as many trees as they want at any drop-off location and put the trees into a body of water that they choose.
“Make sure that you get permission before sinking the trees,” Wilson said, emphasizing that some anglers may wish to place trees in private bodies of water.
“These trees are some of the best natural forms of underwater structure,” Clifton Jackson, AGFC community fisheries biologist, said in a statement.
Bruce Moyer, a park ranger at Greers Ferry Lake, said the project has had many participants over the years within the Greers Ferry area.
Moyer said the trees are dropped into the lake in various locations determined by a GPS that indicates where trees have been sunk in the past so there isn’t a buildup of trees in a specific area.
“We get a lot of calls with people wanting to know where those locations are, and we have a lot of fishermen who want to go to those areas,” Moyer said. “[The project] brings a lot of people out there.”
Gary Ivy, also a park ranger at Greers Ferry Lake, said the GPS locations are placed on the Greers Ferry website so fishermen will know where the sunken trees are.
“This shows them a [set] place to go out and fish over these shelters,” Ivy said.
He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with volunteers from around the community, help sink the trees in Greers Ferry Lake.
Fish thrive in the habitat created by the sunken Christmas trees, giving fish a chance to grow up and hide from predators in the lake. Moyer said the fish that most likely use the trees as shelter are crappie, bream and bass.
Moyer said the Greers Ferry area has had more than 100 trees dropped off in past years.
Barbara Schilling with Shilling’s Family Christmas Tree Farm in Lonoke said the farm has participated in the recycling program in the past when the AGFC sank unsold Christmas trees into Lake Conway. She said the farm usually doesn’t have a lot of trees left after the season is over, but she supports the program.
“I think it’s a good program, to be able to reuse and be able to help the habitat and the local fishing industry,” Schilling said. “It’s better than burning [the trees].”
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 399-4307 or email@example.com.