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Recycled trees create fish habitat

by ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH | December 29, 2020 at 6:00 a.m.
Old Christmas trees get new life as fish habitat. (Courtesy photo/Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)

Give this year's Christmas tree another life after the yuletide celebrations by donating it to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Habitat for the Holidays program.

Many holiday trees are destined to sit next to the road until the sanitation department picks them up.

"Instead of letting that tree go to waste, we have drop-off locations to improve angling throughout the state," said Colton Dennis, a fisheries habitat coordinator with Game and Fish. "Throughout January, anglers can create brush piles in nearby lakes from these donated trees, increasing fishing opportunities and habitat for themselves and other anglers."

In Northwest Arkansas, trees may be dropped off at Beaver Lake at the Arkansas 12 bridge access and at the Don Roufa access near the U.S. 412 bridge. Trees may be dropped near the boat ramps at Lake Elmdale near Elm Springs, Crystal Lake in Decatur and Bob Kidd Lake in Prairie Grove.

The drop-off locations act just like a "take-a-penny, leave-a-penny tray" at a cashier's station, only it's for fish. Anyone who wants to drop off their natural Christmas tree can take it to a location and leave it. Any angler who wants to take the trees and sink them can do so. Anglers supply their own rope and weights to sink the trees.

"Cinder blocks and sandbags work well to sink the trees, and parachute cord works very well to bind trees together and attach them to the weight," Dennis said. "By the time the cord deteriorates, the tree will be waterlogged enough to stay put."

Most Christmas trees will likely deteriorate within a year or two, Dennis said, but they offer very good cover for small bait fish and ambush locations for larger sport fish until they rot away.

"The trees have lots of nooks and crannies, which we call interstitial spacing, for fish to hide in," Dennis said. "But because they deteriorate quickly, we advise anglers to drop large groups of trees together. That way the main stems and larger branches will still form good cover when the smaller twigs and scales of the trees are gone."

Artificial trees are not allowed at drop-off locations, and all ornaments, tinsel and lights should be removed before being dropped off.

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