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After a Christmas tree has served its purpose, consider giving it to the fish

Missouri Department of Conservation
Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries biologists sink used Christmas trees in the water to provide cover and habitat for fish.

Instead of kicking that Christmas tree to the curb after the holiday, state wildlife officials want St. Louis area residents to donate their used trees to build fish habitats. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation has been submerging used trees in park lakes for 30 years.

"Over the years, that's really helped our fish population and fishing," said Kevin Meneau, a state fisheries management biologist. Anglers, he said, have noticed that fishing is better near the sunken trees.   

Evergreen trees attract fish because the dense branches provide shelter and escape from threats. | GIF via GIPHY

The trees also offer good spaces to rear young fish, especially because plankton and other tiny creatures they eat hang out in the small areas between the branches.   

"Since little fish would then gather around those brush piles, that brings larger fish to eat them," Meneau said. "So there's a whole micro food chain going on in these brush piles." 

The practice is done in 60 park lakes in the St. Louis area. Each lake receives trees every three years, since some commonly used festive trees, such the scotch pine, decompose fairly quickly.  

The Missouri Department of Conservation is accepting Christmas trees from now until Jan. 16. Collection sites are at Lake 33 on the August A. Busch Conservation Area in St. Charles; Spanish Lake Park and the Blackjack Lake at the North County Recreational Complex. 

Meneau asks folks to remove all decorations and not to trim or alter the trees before dropping them off. 

"The biggest, bushiest trees we can find provide the best habitat for us," Meneau said, "and we'll tie them together to a concrete block and provide good fishing and recycle your Christmas tree." 

Follow Eli on Twitter @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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