The trees keep on giving — creating fish habitat and better angling.
Did you know that discarded Christmas trees can be recycled to create fish habitat and provide better angling opportunities?
Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) staff and volunteers gathered at Saguaro Lake in early January to be part of this project. The trees were provided by the City of Mesa, which allowed AZGFD to take them from a drop-off location for discarded trees. The volunteers tied cinder blocks to the trees, loaded them onto a pontoon boat, and sank them in various pre-determined locations on the lake.
Over time, reservoirs lose quality fish habitat through decomposition of the natural vegetation that was flooded, particularly where water levels fluctuate significantly. Five of the large reservoirs in central Arizona — Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon, Saguaro and Bartlett — are all more than 70 years old and can lack sufficient hiding cover for spawning and for the growth and survival of young fish. The submerged Christmas trees also provide a surface for microscopic animals to grow, which attracts bait fish and in turn the predatory fish for anglers to target.
In 2014, the department embarked on a program to improve fisheries habitat in these reservoirs and restore the fisheries to their former glory days. Some projects have used Christmas trees for habitat, while others, such as recent projects at Roosevelt and Bartlett lakes, have used artificial habitat structures. This is the first time that the Christmas Tree Habitat Project has taken place at Saguaro Lake.
AZGFD received a grant this year from the National Fish Habitat Partnership, which enabled the purchase of cinder blocks and rope. The department also works with angling groups and with the Tonto National Forest, the land management agency for the five reservoirs.
Fox 10 joined the workers on this particular day and broadcast a nice story about the project.