Donate your Christmas tree to boost angling action

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

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 brushpile.

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 brushpiles. 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 brushpiles from the Christmas trees are welcome in those,” AGFC Habitat Biologist Cody Wyatt said. “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 problem, they eventually separate from the tree and become trash that can entangle fishing lures, motors and wildlife.  

“We sink our brushpiles 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:

Central Arkansas

Arkansas River – Simmons (formerly 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

East 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

Northeast Arkansas

Jonesboro – Craighead Forest Park Lake boat ramp

Lake Bono – Boat Ramp Access

Lake Walcott – Crowley’s Ridge State Park Boat Ramp Access

Northwest Arkansas

Beaver Lake – Highway 12 Access and AGFC Don Roufa Highway 412 Access

Lake Elmdale – Boat Ramp Access

Bob Kidd Lake – Boat Ramp Access

Crystal Lake – Boat Ramp Access

Southeast Arkansas

Lake Chicot – Connerly Bayou Access Area

Lake Monticello – Hunger Run Access

Southwest Arkansas

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

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