Nature & Science

Recycling Christmas Trees - Making Fish and Anglers Happy

Anglers have a love-hate relationship with woody structure in lakes and ponds. They curse those logs and branches that snag their new fishing lures, but they know that woody structure is a key to a successful fishing trip!

Many studies have shown that fish utilize underwater structure for cover. Boulders, logs, and fallen trees are some of the natural forms of underwater structure found in Wayne National Forest lakes. Bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and other fish will often hide in and around structure, and often they will build their nests around these protective objects.

Neighbors donate recycled Christmas trees to be used for structure in lakesThe fishing ponds and lakes on the Wayne are all man-made resources. When they were constructed, the pond and lake beds were scraped clean of any structure. Forest Service biologists recognize that adding structure to the ponds and lakes could result in improved fisheries habitat.

Christmas trees are given to the U.S. Forest Service each year by National Forest neighbors wanting to improve fish habitat and ease the crunch on our landfills. Christmas trees make cheap, but quality underwater structures. They are easy to place in the ponds and lakes, and they last for several years. More importantly, their branching patterns offer something to fish of all shapes and sizes.

Employees bundle the trees to drop into the lake for structure

Bundles are constructed by tying 4-5 trees together at the bottom of their trunks. Concrete blocks are then tied to the bundle so they will sink to the bottom of the lake.

Biologists will generally place the Christmas trees in varying depths of water, but they are careful not to place them too deep where oxygen may be a limiting factor for the fish during the summer months. Making "reefs" that start near the shore and extend out to the deeper water ensures there is structure available to all kinds of fish. Young fish often stay near the shallow areas, but larger fish will cruise the edges and feed in the deeper water areas.

Trees and concrete blocks are taken out into the lake to sink

Tree bundles are loaded into boats and taken out to selected spots in the lake. The bundle is pushed over the side and will sink to the bottom of the pond or lake.

Knowing where underwater structure is located can improve your fishing success. However, you still must be careful not to snag and lose your lures!

To learn more about how you can help improve fisheries habitat in your National Forest ponds and lakes, contact the fisheries biologist.