Recycled trees create fish habitats

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. 

The long-held tradition of cutting down or purchasing a real Christmas tree for the holiday season has seen a huge increase throughout American homes this year. When the eggnog is finished and the last of the holiday feasts are over, many of these 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,” Colton Dennis, AGFC South Arkansas Fisheries Habitat Coordinator, said. “Throughout January anglers can create brush piles in nearby lakes from these donated trees, increasing fishing opportunities and habitat for themselves and other anglers.” 

Ben Batten left, and Clint Coleman with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, toss Christmas trees weighted with cinder blocks into the Cabot Community Pond as part of a program for improving fish habitats.

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 just take it to a location and leave it. Any angler who wants to take the trees and sink them can do so. Anglers should bring 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.”

Dennis said the most Christmas trees will likely deteriorate within a year or two, but offer very good cover for small baitfish and ambush locations for larger sportfish 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. 

Trees can be dropped off at any of the following locations until the end of January:
East-Central Arkansas
Cook’s Lake – Potlatch Conservation Education Center at 625 Cook’s Lake Road, Casscoe, or the bus lot across from Grand Avenue United Methodist Church in Stuttgart
Horseshoe Lake – Pat and Nancy Bonds Access
Lake Pickthorne – Boat Ramp Access

West-Central Arkansas
Cox Creek Lake – Cox Creek Lake Public Access
Lake Hamilton – Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery Access

Central Arkansas
Greers Ferry Lake – Sandy Beach, Devils Fork Recreation Area and Choctaw Recreation Area
Lake Conway – Lawrence Landing Access
Harris Brake Lake – Chittman Hill Access
Lake Overcup – Lake Overcup Landing
Lake Barnett – Reed Access

Submitted by Randy Zellers, Assistant Chief of Communications