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TWRA uses recycled Christmas trees to make fish habitats

By Megan Gorey
Published On: Feb 18 2013 04:58:03 PM CST
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency spent Monday on Boone Lake turning old Tannenbaum into a terrarium.

For years, the TWRA has been recycling used Christmas trees and turning them into fish habitats. "It's perfect," said Russell Young, with TWRA. "They're already cut, they're available and it's better than grinding them up."

Over the years, as the water levels in the likes rise and fall, the reservoirs lose their natural woody debris where fish tend to spawn, grow and feed. "Smaller fish tend to congregate around those. Then bigger fish gather around the smaller fish so it's a food chain," said Young.

TWRA workers refurbish the fish attractors every four to five years by anchoring down the trees in tire piles, which were installed more than 25 years ago. "We've tried everything over the years and it's hard to beat a tree," he said.

But the underwater havens don't just help the fish, they also become a hot spot for fisherman. "We try to use an existing point as a reference line and try to keep them below that point so we don't create any boating hazards."

However, the TWRA is facing some new concerns. Two years ago, they had about 5,000 trees donated. But last year they only had 3,000 donated. Young is afraid it's because less people are buying real Christmas trees. "Due to the economy, I believe a lot of people went to artificial trees."

The TWRA used to bring in timber from the surrounding woods, but even that is becoming more difficult. "It's getting harder to do that. There's more homes on the lake. All the areas we used to work in have a home on them now."

This is very labor intensive work and Region IV has only two individuals assigned to the program. Volunteers are encouraged to contact Russell Young at (423) 587-7037 or (800) 332-0900, extension 250, for the current work schedule.