Around the United States, the loss of natural fish habitat is a common problem, making it difficult for local species to thrive and taking a toll on local fishing industries. To slow or reverse these effects, many communities are taking steps to build artificial fish habitats, using a number of different techniques and materials. Miles City, Montana is one such area trying its hand at building a successful fish habitat: two local organizations are currently collecting Christmas trees to use as fish attractors.
Christmas trees are commonly used as fish habitat structures across the U.S. Not only are discarded trees abundant after the winter holidays have passed, but the plant’s also branches mimic the natural cover of an underwater habitat. This helps provide hiding cover for young fish, as well as nesting cover for adults. Because of these advantages, the Miles City chapter of Walleyes Unlimited and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Organization is collecting the trees. The groups have set up a drop off point at Spotted Eagle Lake and are encouraging local residents to donate their used trees.
Program representatives say that the Christmas tree collection is an ongoing activity at Spotted Eagle Lake. Over the past few years, the trees have reportedly been very effective: electronic fishing surveys show that the population of local species uses the artificial fish habitat structures. Unfortunately, as useful as the Christmas trees have been, the program will likely have to continue in the foreseeable future: while the trees are a popular material, they degrade quickly, requiring more trees to be placed in waterways. Because of this, some communities and individuals prefer to invest in more permanent fish habitat structures, which are specifically designed to attract and nurture fish for years.
The Miles City Christmas tree donation program began January 1 and is expected to continue for several weeks. The trees will be placed in Spotted Eagle Lake in the spring.