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Don't toss your Christmas tree in the lake

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A holiday tradition for some outdoors lovers has been to toss their Christmas tree in a pond or lake to provide cover for fish, but the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is reminding anglers that doing so on public waters requires a permit that costs $100.

The reason for the permit is that placement of the tree cannot be in a channel, a beach area, near the lake surface or in an area that would adversely affect public safety and navigation, or adversely affect the natural resources or natural scenic beauty.

Discarding a Christmas tree on a private pond is at the owner’s discretion, but doing so on public freshwater lakes is governed by the Lake Preservation Act (Indiana Code 14-26-2) and Indiana Administrative Code (312 IAC 11-4-7). Those laws require a license from the DNR to construct or place a fish attractor in a public freshwater lake. To qualify, the fish attractor must be anchored to ensure proper setting.

Putting a cut tree on a private pond or homeowner’s lake is at the property owner’s discretion, but doing it to attract fish is not very effective in the long run.

“Fish attractors tend to bring fish and fishermen together,” said Bill James, chief fisheries biologist for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “They provide cover but don’t necessarily grow more fish.”

The DNR says that better options include taking the tree to a designated Christmas tree recycling site in your community, tossing it in the backyard to provide shelter for wintering birds, running it through a wood chipper to create your own mulch, chopping it up for firewood.

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