MDC seeks recycled Christmas trees to benefit fish and anglers in area lakes

News from the region
Saint Louis
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St. LOUIS, Mo.—What better Christmas present could there be than a new home?  Of course, some anglers might say an improved chance to catch fish would be at the top of their list.

Christmas trees can check both boxes off the list by creating a place for fish to live and giving an advantage to anglers. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is accepting used natural Christmas trees to create fish habitat at 14 lakes in the St. Louis area beginning Dec. 26 through Jan. 12, 2023.

So how does recycling a used Christmas tree give fish something to celebrate? Turns out, a bunch of them can create the aquatic equivalent of an underwater condominium. 

“Much like we as humans need a home, fish also need to have shelter so that they can rest, feed, and hunt, said MDC Fisheries Management Biologist, John Schulte.  “Christmas trees make an excellent material for building this much needed habitat in our manmade lakes across the region. This will help support quality fishing opportunities for our anglers now and in the future.”

According to Schulte, the trees provide woody cover that makes excellent habitat for invertebrates. These are an ideal food source for smaller fish, which draws them in like a magnet. This in turn brings in bigger fish and creates a situation that gives a boost to the lake’s entire food chain. 

“These trees will help young fish escape predators in the lake,” Schulte added, “With this cover new generations of fish are more less likely to be eaten, which can potentially help support the fishery.”

The trees benefit some of the most popular fish that anglers like to pursue, including largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie.

Since these fish typically spawn in shallow water, the trees are tied to cement blocks and submerged at depths of four-to-seven feet to give emerging fish easy access to their cover. 

The underwater brush piles concentrate fish, so the submerged trees can be a boon for anglers as well.  By noting the location of the trees, astute anglers can focus their efforts in these areas to improve their odds.  Schulte said the treetops are usually visible for five-to-six weeks after being put into the lake before they become waterlogged and sink completely.  This gives anglers until about mid-March to locate these potential fishing jackpots.  Resourceful anglers often mark the sites for future reference on maps they make themselves or by using a GPS.

Schulte said it’s best to drop off the entire tree, without cutting it up or removing any branches.  Tree donors should remove all decorations, including lights, garland, and ornaments before drop off. 

St. Louis area lakes where MDC is accepting Christmas tree donations for fish habitat work include:

St. Louis City

  • Carondelet Park (Boathouse and Horseshoe Lakes)
  • O'Fallon Park Lake
  • Forest Park (Drop off site at lower Muny parking lot, 1 Theatre Dr, St. Louis)

St. Louis County Parks

  • Spanish Lake Park (12500 Spanish Pond Rd., 63138 - Main parking lot by the lake)
  • Creve Coeur Lake Park (13777 Marine Ave., 63146 - Sailboat Cove parking lot)
  • Queeny Park (550 Weidman Rd., 63011 - Corporate parking lot off Weidman Road)
  • Bee Tree Park (2701 Finestown Rd., 63129 - Lake parking lot)


  • Forestwood Park (806 Ferguson Ave. Ferguson, 63135)


  • Preslar Lake (Drop off at Fabick Nature Preserve parking lot, 597 New Smizer Mill Rd, Fenton)

For more ideas on recycling Christmas trees, go to