LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Instead of setting your used Christmas tree by the curb the day after Christmas, why not give it a second life as fish habitat in your local lake?
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has drop-off locations across the state to leave your tree for an angler to use in their next brush pile.
Unlike artificial trees that get boxed up and stuffed in the attic, real Christmas trees must be discarded, but that doesn’t mean you have to just toss it out like trash. There’s still a lot of potential in those branches for baitfish and young sport fish to hide from predators, and likewise for larger fish to wait and ambush prey.
AGFC Christmas tree drop-off locations work sort of like a take-a-penny, leave-a-penny tray at a cash register. Anyone can drop off their tree, and anyone is welcome to take them to sink their own brush piles. Anglers sinking brush should call ahead to make sure sinking brush is allowed in the body of water where they want to sink the trees. Some water-supply reservoirs and other lakes have regulations to prevent dumping of brush without permission.
“Nearly all AGFC-owned lakes were created for fishing, and brush piles from the Christmas trees are welcome in those,” said AGFC Habitat Biologist Cody Wyatt. “But no artificial trees should be used. The types of plastics and materials used in those trees may cause issues with water quality in the long term.”
Anglers also should make sure all ornaments, lights and tinsel are removed from the tree before sinking. Not only do they carry the same sort of environmental issue, they eventually separate from the tree and become trash that can entangle fishing lures, motors and wildlife.
“We sink our brush piles with standard cinder blocks tied to the tree with either parachute cord or heavy baling wire,” Wyatt said. “These materials last for an extremely long time and keep the tree anchored to one spot.”
Wyatt says Christmas trees are relatively short-term habitat because they don’t have much thick woody material, but they can be gathered in clusters easily and sunk in large groups.
“You want to have a bunch of main stems in one spot if you can do it,” Wyatt said. “That way the fish attractor will draw fish even after all the smaller branches are gone. Good anglers usually use these Christmas trees to freshen up productive attractor sites every year to keep the fish coming back. All those main trunks will continue to serve as cover for many years while new brush gives plenty of smaller spaces for baitfish to hide.”
Trees can be dropped off at any of the following locations until the end of January:
- Arkansas River – Verizon Access beneath the I-30 Bridge
- Cox Creek Lake – Cox Creek Lake Public Access
- Greers Ferry Lake – Sandy Beach (Heber Springs), Devils Fork Recreation Area and Choctaw Recreation Area (Choctaw-Clinton)
- Lake Conway – Lawrence Landing Access
- Harris Brake Lake – Chittman Hill Access
- Lake Overcup – Lake Overcup Landing
- Lake Barnett – Reed Access
- Lake Hamilton – Andrew Hulsey State Fish Hatchery Access Area
- Cook’s Lake – Potlatch Conservation Education Center at 625 Cook’s Lake Rd., Casscoe, or the bus lot across from Grand Avenue United Methodist Church in Stuttgart.
- Jonesboro – Craighead Forest Park Lake boat ramp
- Lake Bono – Boat Ramp Access
- Lake Walcott – Crowley’s Ridge State Park Boat Ramp Access
- Beaver Lake – Highway 12 Access and AGFC Don Roufa Hwy 412 Access
- Lake Elmdale – Boat Ramp Access
- Bob Kidd Lake – Boat Ramp Access
- Crystal Lake – Boat Ramp Access
- Lake Chicot – Connerly Bayou Access Area
- Lake Monticello – Hunger Run Access
- Bois d’Arc Lake – Kidd’s Landing or Hatfield Access
- Millwood Lake – Cottonshed, White Cliffs Recreation Areas and the Millwood State Park ramp on the point
- Dierks Lake – Jefferson Ridge South Recreation Area
- De Queen Lake – Any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp
- Gillham Lake – Any U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp
- Lake Greeson – New Cowhide Cove and Self Creek Recreation areas
- Camden – AGFC Regional Office on Ben Lane, next to the National Guard Armory
- Upper White Oak Lake – Upper Jack’s Landing
- Magnolia – Columbia County Road Department Yard on Highway 371
- El Dorado – City recycling center drop-offs: one behind Arby’s and one on South Jackson
- Smackover – Recycling Drop-Off Center (these will be transported to El Dorado)
- South Fork Lake – South Fork Lake Access
- Terre Noire Lake – Terre Noire Lake Access
- Hope – AGFC Regional Office on U.S. Highway 67 East