Originally created 01/07/01

Decorations find new life as reefs



Low water levels, cold weather and an abundance of discarded Christmas trees will offer anglers an opportunity to plan now for better bluegill and crappie fishing later this spring.

Augustans routinely discard nearly 50,000 holiday trees. Most are ground into mulch, but many are recycled into fish attractors for use in private ponds and at reservoirs like Clarks Hill.

"From a standpoint of cover, both small fish and big fish have a use for submerged Christmas trees," said Ed Bettross, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.

"Small fish use the cover for protection, to avoid predation from fish like largemouth bass or whatever eats other fish in the area," he said. "Big fish go there for the small fish, so the cover attracts big fish."

Most people create underwater fish attractors at Clarks Hill, where they can secretly sink Christmas trees at a favorite spot and return a few months later to catch fish.

Until hydrilla appeared in the reservoir a few years ago, the lake was largely devoid of adequate cover. Now the mats of hydrilla provide attractive lairs for many baitfish.

However, Bettross pointed out that hydrilla dies back in the winter and resurrects in spring. Bushy cover from Christmas trees should be particularly appealing in March and April - before the hydrilla thickens.

There are several ways to use Christmas trees for fish attractors.

"What we typically do is put them out vertically. The state maintains certain fish attractors, usually in water that's 20 to 30 feet deep," Bettross said. "Most people do it for crappie fishing. Put it in 15 to 30-foot-deep water, which will provide good crappie fishing most months of the year."

Allan Dean, chief ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers, said it is best to attach a milk jug or float at the base of the tree and tie a brick or native rock to the tip of the tree before sinking it.

The "umbrella" effect helps give fish a ledge to hover against.

"It's best to float the stump end because it gives that 'shade' effect," he said.

The more trees, the better the fish attractor, he said. "A good crappie hole can use 20 to 30 trees. If you put them perpendicular to the shore in a straight line, it makes easier casting, too."

Once placed on the bottom, the Christmas trees typically provide cover for two to three years, he said.

The Corps maintains seven locations where people can drop off Christmas trees - and where anglers can pick them up if they need trees to use as fish attractors.

Tree dropoff locations:

Keg Creek Ramp, Columbia County

Mistletoe Ramp, Columbia County

Amity Ramp, Lincoln County

Cherokee Ramp, Lincoln County

Soap Creek Marina, Lincoln County

Plum Branch ramp, McCormick County

Baker Creek ramp, McCormick County