Old Christmas trees improve Greers Ferry fish habitat

GREERS FERRY - Old Christmas trees, just like yesterday's newspapers, can be recycled for beneficial additional uses.

At Greers Ferry Lake, fish habitat has received a boost from the cooperative effort of public agencies and volunteers. Christmas trees, weeks after the holiday, have been bundled and put into the lake to provide refuge to young fish and baitfish, while creating prime areas for anglers for years to come.

Matt Schroeder, district fisheries biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said Harold McFarlin of Heber Springs donated about 500 Christmas trees for use as fish habitat on Greers Ferry Lake

Getting the trees was the first step. Some intensive labor came next in tying the trees into bunches, loading them on a special vessel then sinking them in three areas that fisheries biologists found needing additional habitat underwater.

Schroder and fellow AGFC staff members Tom Bly, Matt Horton, Mike Story, and Mike Shamoon joined Jason Presley, Jeff Price, David Shoults and Bill Fulford of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and members of the Greers Ferry Bassmasters, Tim Marshall, Jeff Stevenson and Rick Cothren, to complete the project.

A key tool was a front-loading dump barge donated by Bass Pro and also used for habitat work on Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, and Lake Norfork.

The 500 Christmas trees were placed in groups of 20 near three access areas on the lake for a total of 25 brush piles. The Sandy Beach, Devil's Fork and Frontier Canyon areas received eight, 10, and seven brush piles, respectively.

The positions of these brush piles were logged with Global Positioning System (GPS) units by the crews and will be available to the public through the Corps of Engineers.

The clusters of trees under the water provide shelter for newly born fish and also for minnows and shad that are food fish for bass, crappie, walleye and other game species in Greers Ferry Lake. The trees are far enough below the surface so they don't interfere with boat traffic, even when the lake is low.