‘O fish-mas tree, O fish-mas tree …’

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is collecting natural Christmas trees to provide food and protection for fish in lakes throughout the state.

The agency will collect the trees at 39 drop-off sites until mid-January. Donated trees must be free of all lights, tinsel, ornaments and other decorations. Limbs, wreaths or other brush are not encouraged.

“Instead of your tree going to a landfill, it can be recycled into something that directly helps our fish and wildlife,” said Joseph Zimmerman, habitat program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife receives about 3,000 donated trees each year, resulting in anglers reporting higher catch rates for crappie and bass, the agency said.

With many of the state’s lakes more than 50 years old, natural woody debris has broken down naturally.

Christmas trees are among the fish attractors found in lakes across the state. GPS coordinates of each location are available online.

Other states typically do the same, including West Virginia, where a recycling event is Jan. 4 at Charleston’s Capitol Market. There’s no limit to the number of trees each person can donate and no size limit. Trees must be real trees. All decorations must be removed, and branches must be attached to the tree.

The trees will be repurposed as fish habitat in lakes around West Virginia, including Cheat, Tygart, Stonewall Jackson, Stonecoal, Burnsville, Sutton, Summersville, Big Ditch, Sherwood, R.D. Baily, Beech Fork and East Lynn lakes, and the Apple Grove Hatchery in Mason County.

The program is sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan in conjunction with West Virginia State Parks and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Staff will be at the donation site to help unload trees. Those who donate can register for prizes, and each person who donates will receive a gift from the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan.

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