Give fish a gift by turning old Christmas trees into perfect fish habitat, Arkansas Game and Fish suggests

Commission: Turn Christmas trees into underwater habitat

Kevin Hopkins, a fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, drops a Christmas tree Jan. 13, 2016, tethered to cinder blocks from a 22-foot boat into Lake Elmdale east of Springdale. 
(File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)
Kevin Hopkins, a fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, drops a Christmas tree Jan. 13, 2016, tethered to cinder blocks from a 22-foot boat into Lake Elmdale east of Springdale. (File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

Don't throw away that evergreen Christmas tree. It could be better used as fish habitat.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has drop-off locations across the state to let old trees have a second life as underwater cover.

The small spaces and dense cover offered by fresh Christmas trees make excellent nursery habitat for small fish as well as great places to fish, according to the commission.

In Northwest Arkansas, trees may be dropped off at Beaver Lake at the Arkansas 12 bridge boat ramp or U.S. 412 ramp. Trees may be left near the ramps at Lake Elmdale between Elm Springs and Springdale, Crystal Lake in Decatur or Bob Kidd Lake in Washington County, according to the commission.

Anglers are welcome to remove trees from drop-off locations to create their own fish attractors. Tying the trees to cinder blocks with parachute cord is a popular option to weigh the trees down. Sandbags also are a popular option. By the time the bags and cord deteriorate, the trees will be waterlogged and no longer need the weight to stay on the bottom, according to the commission.

Flocked live trees that have a white, powdery mixture on the branches will be accepted, according to the commission.

Hook, Line and Sinker in Rogers has collected real Christmas trees to be used as fish habitat for the past five or six years, owner Aaron Jolliff said. The trees are put in Beaver Lake at Arkansas 12 bridge and at Prairie Creek, he said.

"We want to put them in a place where people from shore can catch fish," he said.

The number of trees collected at the business varies, but one year there was 500 to 600 trees. Residents can come by Hook, Line and Sinker and pick up trees to build their own fish habitat maybe in a pond or around a boat dock, he said.

Small branches will deteriorate quickly, so it's best to sink the trees in groups. The trunks of the trees will last much longer, offering some woody cover long after a single tree's attractiveness wanes.

Under water, the trees form a brush reef that attracts bass, crappie, sunfish and blue gill, Jolliff said.

Trees should be clean of all ornaments, lights and tinsel before they are dropped off. Artificial Christmas trees should not be used as fish habitat, according to the commission.

In Fayetteville, Christmas tree composting is available. Christmas trees will be picked up the same day as recycling and trash collections through January. No artificial trees will be collected for composting. Residents can bring trees to the city's composting facility at 1708 S. Armstrong Ave. free of charge from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, as well as 8 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month. Trees must be free of plastic bags, stands, decorations, lights and tinsel before they will be collected and dropped off, according to the city.

Bentonville residents can drop off live Christmas trees at the city composting facility at 2000 N.W. A St. for free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Trees must be undecorated, according to the city.

Residents will need to show proof of residency with a valid driver's license or utility bill.

In Rogers, residents can call (479) 878-1384 to have their Christmas trees gathered up Jan. 9-13 on their normal trash pickup day, according to the city.

The Rogers yard waste facility at 2307 N. Arkansas St. also will take Christmas trees. A person must be a city resident to use this option. Residents should bring their Rogers water bill. Trees must be free of ornaments, tinsel and bases. The yard waste area is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, according to the city.

Springdale Public Works Department will collect live Christmas trees from Jan. 3 to Jan. 14, said Terry Anderson, construction superintendent for the department.

Residents should place their trees near the curb and call the Public Works Department for pick up, he said.

The trees are given out on an individual basis, and some people use them for fish habitat. City staff will mulch any trees that are not claimed, he said.

In Fort Smith, Christmas trees will be collected on each resident's normal yard waste collection day, but must have all ornaments, tinsel, lights, plastic and tree stands removed before placing it curbside.

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