There are many ways to recycle Christmas trees, but tossing them on a frozen lake as a way of creating fish habitat has certain requirements … and an uncertain outcome.
“Fish attractors tend to bring fish and fishermen together,” said Bill James, fisheries section chief for DNR Fish & Wildlife. “They provide cover but don’t necessarily grow more fish.”
Instead of waiting for an iced-over lake to thaw so a single discarded Christmas tree can sink to the bottom, James said there are better options for fish attractors.
“They need to be designed, sized and placed appropriately to attract and hold fish,” he said. “Large hardwood brush piles work well and last for many years. Soft woods such as pine or spruce attract fish initially but deteriorate quickly. This is especially true if used Christmas trees are placed singly or just scattered about.”
Furthermore, state laws may apply, depending on the body of water. Discarding a Christmas tree on a private pond is at the owner’s discretion, but doing so on a public freshwater lakes is governed by the Lake Preservation Act (Indiana Code 14-26-2) and Indiana Administrative Code (312 IAC 11-4-7).
Those two laws stipulate that a license from the DNR is needed to construct or place a fish attractor in a public freshwater lake. To qualify, the fish attractor must be anchored to ensure proper setting and must not be placed in a channel, a beach area, near the lake surface or in an area that would adversely affect public safety and navigation, or adversely affect the natural resources or natural scenic beauty.
Three DNR divisions – Fish & Wildlife, Law Enforcement, and Water – have a role in reviewing and approving a permit request for placement of a fish attractor. If approved, the permit carries a $100 fee and requires the permit holder to remove any portion or portions of the fish attractor that become unattached.
The administrative rule (312 IAC 11-4-7) was enacted in 1999 by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission in response to requests for permission to submerge cars and other large objects, including an airplane.