Christmas Trees Become Fish Habitat in Beaver Lake

Sinking Christmas trees as fish habitats in a channel off the Arkansas River

As the holiday season draws to a close, you may be looking for a sustainable way to dispose of your live Christmas tree. One option available in Arkansas is to donate your live Christmas tree for fish habitat! The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began the program in 2006 and this year there are multiple drop-off locations across the state to leave your tree for an angler to use in their next brush pile.

Northwest Arkansas Live Christmas Tree Dropoff Locations:

Christmas Tree AGFC dropoff at Hwy 12 access on Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake Dropoff Points:

  • Highway 12 Access
  • AGFC Don Roufa Hwy 412 Access.

Other Northwest Arkansas AGFC Dropoff locations are:

  • Lake Elmdale boat launch in Springdale,
  • Bob Kidd Lake boat ramp access located about 2.0 miles west of Prairie Grove in Washington County,
  • Crystal Lake Boat Ramp Access located off Arkansas Highway 59, northeast of Decatur.

Live Trees are also being accepted at Hook Line and Sinker Outdoor Store located on Hwy 12 at 98 W Locust St (HWY 12), Rogers, AR 72756

Sign on hwy 12 at Hook Line and Sinker

Trees can be dropped off at any of the AGFC locations until the end of January

How does the Christmas Tree Fish Habitat Program work?

Anyone with a real Christmas tree may take it to a drop-off location and leave it near the indicated boat ramp. Anglers may then collect the trees and place them into designated waters to create habitat coverage for fish. The program is similar to the “leave a penny, take a penny” concept. 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.

In 2018, AGFC devoted a few minutes to their Arkansas Wildlife show to demonstrate how the christmas tree donation program works and how you can build your own fish habitat using Christmas trees:

Why Sink Christmas Trees?

In water bodies lacking structure and depth changes, such as Corps lakes like Beaver Lake or other smaller dammed lakes, baitfish will be heavily scattered. Without refuge, many fish remain inactive most of the day, suspending over deep water. Adding cover provides much needed nutrition for even the smallest of species, and with this the food chain will follow.

As woody plant tissue decomposes, Mother Nature jumpstarts a whole new series of vegetation at the lowest levels of life such as phytoplankton and various algaes. Zooplankton, also known as water fleas, populate and forage on the new vegetation, attracting small insects, mussels, snails, and crayfish who also eat on the phyto and zooplankton. The abundance of life then attracts small, non-predatory fish that eat on the small insects or zooplankton, and the larger, predator species we cherish. Members of the sunfish family, such as largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappies are attracted to submerged trees. Small fishes hide there for protection. Larger fishes may seek protection, or may chase the small fishes that are attracted by it.

Sinking Christmas Trees on the Little Maumelle River in Little Rock, Ark.

For those wishing to donate trees:

  • Only REAL trees may be donated.
  • Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights and other man-made materials from the trees before dropping them off.
  • Drop off at one of the commission pre-approved locations or check with the owners of the lake or body of water before leaving trees behind.
  • Do not block the boat ramps when donating trees.

For those wishing to sink trees for fish:

  • Always check over trees to make sure that they meet the program requirements.
  • Always check to make sure the location allows habitats to be sunk.
  • Take several trees and tie them together to create a more abundant habitat.
  • Anglers must provide their own cinder blocks and rope. Polyester rope will last longer than cotton rope.
  • Consider adding trees to an existing habitat to rebuild it.
  • Sinking trees to a depth of 12-25 feet is ideal for crappie. Bass habitats can be a little shallower.
  • Mark the GPS location of your habitat so you can return to it later to fish.

Click here for more information about the 2019 Arkansas Game and Fish Christmas Tree Drop off Information