ST. LOUIS — Christmas trees can have a second life after the holidays by providing home for fish, and an advantage for anglers.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is accepting used natural Christmas trees to create fish habitat in Lake 34 on the August A. Busch Conservation Area in St. Charles and in Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis County.
So how does recycling a used Christmas tree give fish something to celebrate? Turns out, a bunch of them can create the aquatic equivalent of an underwater condominium.
“A lot of lakes we work with are manmade and there’s not much fish cover in them, so we have to figure out how to put fish habitat in those lakes,” said Kevin Meneau, MDC Fisheries Management Biologist. “Christmas trees are one of the best ways to do that in winter.”
According to Meneau, the trees provide woody cover that makes excellent habitat for invertebrates. These are an ideal food source for smaller fish, which draws them in like a magnet. This in turn brings in bigger fish and creates a situation that gives a boost to the lake’s entire food chain.
“They also help young fish,” Meneau added, “because when the adults spawn their young can hide in those trees.”
The trees benefit some of the most popular fish that anglers like to pursue, including largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie.
Since these fish typically spawn in shallow water, the trees are tied to cement blocks and submerged at depths of four to seven feet to give emerging fish easy access to their cover.
The underwater brush piles concentrate fish, so the submerged trees can be a boon for anglers as well. By noting the location of the trees, astute anglers can focus their efforts in these areas to improve their odds.
Meneau said the tree tops are usually visible for five to six weeks after being put into the lake before they become water logged and sink completely. This gives anglers until about mid-March to locate these potential fishing jackpots.
Resourceful anglers often mark the sites for future reference on maps they make themselves or by using a GPS.
Recycled Christmas trees are requested at Lake 34 on the August A. Busch Conservation Area in St. Charles. The entrance to the conservation area is on Route D, two miles west of Highway 94. Signs on the area will guide visitors to the drop off point.
St. Louis County residents can bring their trees to Creve Coeur Park Lake, 13725 Marine Drive, where signs will lead them to the drop off point near the Sailboat Cove Boat Ramp.
Meneau said it’s best to drop off the entire tree, without cutting it up or removing any branches.
Tree donors are asked to remove all decorations, including lights, garland and ornaments before drop off.