Old Christmas trees to become new fish habitat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Christmas tree that brought so much joy through the holidays in your living room can continue to provide that joy if you want to go fishing this spring and summer. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in coordination with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s REAP program will be collecting old Christmas trees at two locations Saturday.

The collection points are at the Capitol Market in Charleston and at the Recreational Complex in Bridgeport. The drop-offs will from from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The trees are anchored using cinder blocks and in most cases are placed in an upright position to create the effect of standing timber once the lake returns to summer pool

“We want large, whole, intact trees and they’ll be given a second life and kept out of the landfills,” said District Fisheries Biologist Jeff Hansbarger of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

The trees collected are anchored with cinder blocks or other weights and sunk to the bottom of several of the state’s lakes to make suitable fish habitat.

“We’ll anchor them in the spring with the water at winter pool and we’ll arrange them on the shore line or after the water comes up, we’ll haul them out and drop them off of a boat,” said Hansbarger.

With a pair of official collection points, organizers are hoping to gather as many as 2,200 trees. Last year they only had about 700 to drop into the waters and it was considered a down year. Since the lake levels rise and fall, the trees are in and out of the water which serves to cause them to decay at a faster rate. According to Hansbarger, that’s not a bad thing.

“If they were submerged all they time, they’d probably last a lot longer, but that’s one of the reasons we add them to the lake as they break down they add energy to the system. There are little critters that are feeding off the trees and then in turn fish feed off of them. It takes about two years for the average tree to break down, so that’s why this is a good thing so we continue to have a good supply of Christmas trees to keep putting out.,” he said.

The trees are anchored in a way which allows them to stand in the bottom of the water in an upright position. The standing position gives more opportunity for smaller fish to hide among their branches and for larger fish which like cover like bass or crappie more space to lurk at various depths within the water column.

Christmas trees last about two years as lake levels fluctuate and need to be refurbished annually with fresh donated trees

If the collection reaches the 2,200 tree goal plans call for them to be placed in Cheat Lake, Tygart Lake, Sherwood Lake in Greenbrier County, R.D. Bailey Lake, Beech Fork and East Lynn Lakes. The DNR also has plans to sink trees Stonewall Jackson, Stonecoal, Sutton, and Summersville Lakes in the coming months once they are collected.

Each tree needs to be completely barren of ornaments, tinsel, and lights. Artificial trees are not accepted.


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