Recycled Christmas tree fish habitats ready

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Do you ever wonder what happens to those Christmas trees that you discarded last year?

Many get reused -- not as a centerpiece of the holiday, but as a place for fish to live and raise their young.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, with the help of local cities, towns, and the Keep America Beautiful Campaign, reuse the trees to place in area lakes.

The unusually low drawdown of Boone Lake this year has left huge mud flats where it looks like everybody has dumped their used Christmas trees. Nearly a thousand trees have been purposely placed near Winged Deer Park in Johnson City for fish habitats.

With no naturally-occurring shelter and a mud bottom in the lake, these habitats are a great addition for wildlife. "Fish come into [the habitats]. It doesn't make more fish, but it attracts the ones in the lake to one spot," TWRA biologist John Hammonds says.

Just as the trees attract fish, so will this spot attract fishermen. But these trees are more than just a fish attracter. "What these trees will provide is not an empty habitat with nothing for them to hide in. It will give the crappie and bluegill, the smaller fish a place to hide. When they come in here and they hide from the larger fish, bass and such will come in and they can feed around the trees," biologist Shaun Ramsey said.

The trees are put into bundles and anchored down so they don't float away.

With so many in this one area, everyone has an opportunity to come and catch the fish. "People who buy a license are who funds this work. We try to make it to where not just one or two people can get to it, but anybody who wants to, like the folks on the pier and the ramp. Some folks from shore and also people on boats [can get to them]," Hammondsj said.

And that helps the area's ever-growing recreation opportunities.

It may look like a Christmas tree graveyard at this time of year, but as the lake comes up, so do the fish -- they're not only looking for places to hide but to raise their young. "There's research that show that this type of structure works. The fish definitely like the natural structure, of the Christmas trees. You can put artificial things out there, but natural seems to work better to attract fish," Hammonds added.

And it's the perfect reuse for all of those trees.

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