Christmas Trees for Improved Fish Habitat

As the holiday season comes to a close, many of us are more than ready to get rid of our old Christmas tree. With curbside pick-up the norm across much of the country, little thought is given to alternative options. But this year, why not consider sinking your tree to improve fish habitat?

Why Sink Christmas Trees? 

When it comes to fishing, habitat is one of the most important aspects to angling success. In water bodies lacking structure and depth changes, baitfish will be heavily scattered. This often means finding your desired sportfish can be quite difficult. 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. As the saying goes, “Find the Bait, and You’ll Find the Fish.” 

How to Sink Christmas Trees

Numerous methods have proven popular over the years for creating the perfect fish retaining structure. The most important goal is developing structure that will stand upright underwater, providing the most surface area for fish. To do this, the tree must be secured to a strong base.

Cement blocks or 5-gallon buckets are the most common method of creating underwater structure. For each, the size of the tree’s truck will determine whether or not the tree must first be cut to fit into the base. Success has been found tying nylon twine to the heavy base; however, it is best to stick to metal wire as nylon will break down at a faster rate, increasing likelihood of releasing your hard work from the water’s floor. For best results, fill the base with concrete to secure the trunk. Affixing the tree straight is of uptmost importance, as it will prevent your structure from falling over.

For even better results, take into consideration the space between limbs. Less space means smaller areas in which fish can find refuge in the new habitat, and the longer the wait before the tree reaches its maximum fish attracting potential. Remove a few limbs to provide larger spacing, approximately 6” to 18.” Add more trees to the surrounding area to increase your chances of catching a trophy, as well as make your gold mine easier to locate in the future.

It’s All About Location

Finding a location that will attract fish is one of the most import aspects of sinking trees. If you’re serious about going through the efforts to sink structure, know the tendencies of the fish in the area, making certain the area has large numbers of both baitfish and sportfish to attract. Ensure your new honey hole is at least deep enough to cover the whole tree with changes in lake/river level as to not draw attention from other anglers. Take into consideration seasonal fish transitions, relation to deeper water and the main lake or river, as well as other locations fish prefer to gravitate to such as creek channels, points, cuts and ledges. Visualize the current in the area as well. A little current can be helpful for attracting fish, whereas a lot of current may pose as a feeding ground, but fail to hold fish regularly. 

How Long Will My Tree Last Underwater?

Although the needles of your tree may be completely lost within the first few months of sinking, sources vary for the tree’s duration underwater. One thing is for certain; a fully submerged tree will last much longer than one that remains partially exposed with tide or water level fluctuations. Some reports show as much as a 10 year life expectancy, where at that point all that remains is the main trunk and a few of the largest limbs. A lot of this will depend on the current of the area and how hard the area gets fished. 

Where to Recycle

Don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own fishing cover? We understand. Most of us are without a boat or are owners who have winterized. Contact your state’s conservation department to learn about designated recycling locations in your area, as well as any regulations for your state. Many agencies offer volunteer opportunities to help with the efforts to recycle trees into fish habitat. As an added bonus for your service, you may just be provided with the GPS coordinates to use in the coming fishing season.

This year, choose the recycling option that helps support our local fisheries. The wise angler understands the dynamics of the food chain, and the value such habitat provides not only the fish but our own successes. Keep America Fishing would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, and a successful New Year.

Let us know about your structure successes, and fish on!


Allen Luck
Keep America Fishing