ST. LOUIS (AP) — Used Christmas trees can be donated as homes for fish as part of a Missouri Department of Conservation program.
The department uses the natural trees to establish fish habitat in Missouri lakes. Officials say man-made lakes do not have much fish habitat, and the trees provide woody cover. The trees attract invertebrates that are a good food source for small fish, which attract larger fish. Young fish also can hide among the trees.
Conservation crews tie the Christmas trees to concrete blocks and submerge them in 4 to 7 feet of water.
"The scuba surveys we did in June showed we had small fish in them very quickly, and bigger fish moved in, attracted by the small ones. We'll often find catfish hiding inside these structures, with smaller fish on the edges and game fish cruising around them," said Mike Allen, Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries biologist.
The department is just finishing a fish habitat project at Table Rock Lake that was funded through a grant from Bass Pro Shops and involves building 2,100 underwater structures, all identified by GPS codes available through MDC, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/1dEGxK0 ). Anglers can plug in those codes to locate the structures and the bass, catfish, crappie and other fish hanging out there.
Before the grant project, Allen said the 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake only had about 200 marked fish structures. Allen said the submerged Christmas trees remain last for about eight years.
Earl Campbell, a competitive angler from Springfield, said the MDC fish structures are "a win-win for the fish and the fishermen."
"It gives fish more cover to live in, and that gives smaller fish have an opportunity to get bigger," he said.