The Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association is leading the Gould’s Creek Brook Trout Restoration Project – a multi-phase project encouraging a spawning ground for brook trout. /DARREN LUM Staff

Gould’s Creek receiving new lease on life

By Darren Lum

Published Nov 6 2018

The Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association is turning back the clock on Gould’s Creek with the support of the community and professionals from near and far.

The Gould’s Creek Brook Trout Restoration Project is a multi-phase project with contributors working to revitalize Gould’s Creek to encourage a spawning ground for brook trout and return it to a time when children spent time fishing there.

This project which will be featured  in a documentary produced by Lucid Intent and completed spring of 2019 was made possible with funding that will be matched up to a total of $155000 – part of the  Department of Fisheries and Oceans Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program grant.

This was one of only 12 approved projects this year by the DFO.

Initially the project was going to be spread over two years but with this being the last eligible year for the grant the plan was compressed to one year. Another large grant came from the Great Lakes Stewardship fund worth $25000. After a funding request Haliburton County allocated $20000 shifting $10000 from the Gelert Bridge project and $10000 from reserves the Minden Times previously reported. In total the project’s estimated cost will be in the neighbourhood of $200000.

Ask anyone about the project’s heart and soul and they’ll tell you about Rusty Rustenburg an HHOA volunteer and former conservation officer.

“About 3 o’clock in the morning I woke up I saw this [DFO] grant and thought it would be nice to bring [Gould’s Creek] back to when brook trout used to be in here” Rustenburg said.

The key thing here he said was the 95 square kilometre flood plain located above the culvert. The past culverts were undersized and were getting overwhelmed carrying silt and other matter into the creek that posed problems to fish such as brook trout.

With an infrared camera they discovered there were six up-welling locations in the creek covering some 1.5 kilometres from the fish hatchery south under a township road and under a rail trail. For the first time ever in the world as far as he believes the HHOA has implemented an artificial up-welling to take the outflow from the hatchery using a drum filter to purify the water so it can eventually be used by the public and cold water can be directed to go underground.

“We’re going to put in a drum filter so the water will be [purified]. Right now it goes into our settling pond where it settles and then it goes into the creek. Why not make use of the fish byproduct that’s great fertilizer (fish feces and ammonia). We can use the bags [of fertilizer] as a brochure about the hatchery. It’s another marketing thing for awareness” he said.

Rustenburg has referred to this endeavour as a “scientific project” which will provide important information about its effectiveness and possibly be an example for others to follow.

“Once we build this thing we’re going to fertilize some brook trout eggs and put them in artificially so when the fish come out it imprints on them that they can lay eggs there” he said. “So that’s the purpose … eventually we’re going to open up the property to catch and release fishing [with barbless hooks].”

The new culvert at Gould’s Crossing is considerably larger and positioned much lower than the last one with its opening a few inches above the ground compared to several inches.

It facilitates fish movement and passage to the creek. The way things were was actually in contravention of the fisheries act (impeding fish passage is the problem) and had to be replaced anyway Rustenburg said.

Other aspects of the project included the installation of coir matting measuring three metres wide on either side of the banks the length of the creek behind the fish hatchery. Bark Ecologic’s Rebecca Krawczyk an ecological consultant brought some 350 plants to the creek and with Leora Berman of the Land Between worked with volunteers to plant the young trees such as red maple and white birch shrubs and winter wheat seeds.

The matting and the winter wheat will help to prevent erosion before the trees and other plants can mature and take root. The wheat is considered a cover crop and can provide the soil with nutrients. It is expected to take root and grow this autumn.

Before this work the creek had two man-made ponds beside Gould’s Creek which had raised the temperature of the water caused by stagnation and resulted in “temperature pollution” for the brook trout.

Ideal conditions for the fish needs to be six to eight degrees Celsius. Rather than pull out the ponds Rustenburg said they chose to create the bypass channel and the creek. The ponds will be left for duck habitat and act as a buffer to spring flooding. Riffles which are deep and shallow portions were installed to add oxygen to the water so it is kept cooler.

He said the DFO appreciated the project’s implemented innovations behind the rehabilitation and it was a reason why this was chosen as one of 12 projects. Providing great assistance in this effort was the DFO’s contact Lorraine Geoffrion who works out of Winnipeg Rustenburg said.

It started with planning two years ago and is nearing completion. The project’s groundwork started in September. The work will temporarily pause for winter but will resume with more planting in the spring.

Rustenburg appreciates the grants but the DFO grant wouldn’t have been given without community support. He said he was amazed at the outpouring of support.

“There’s so many people that sent letters of intent to commit help that helped us get [the DFO grant]. We had to put a value on their participation” he said.

Rustenburg praised local partners and out-of-town professionals who are contributing.

“Everybody says it but it’s a team effort” he said.

“Right across the board everybody … the support was phenomenal” he said. “Everybody likes to help out with the environment. I can’t thank everybody enough that’s for sure.”

There will also be a plan for signage which may include a QR code to provide visitors to the area information on the project via a cellphone or tablet. Pieces of limestone rock from the Rail Trail are expected to be repurposed to create benches on the trail which will stand as a commemoration of the effort.

The affable Rustenberg who was a conservation officer for the MNR from 1988 to 2000 has a dream of seeing youth fishing at Gould’s Creek as it was decades ago. There are brook trout above Lochlin which will be used to get eggs to introduce native stock to the creek. In the past there were brook trout right to Barnum Lake he said.

For all the support and the project partners Rustenburg is thankful to HHOA volunteer Dennis McGee for stepping in for him during medical issues.

“He saved the day” he said.

Rustenburg said this project has the best in the industry helping to make his dream a reality.

“[Department of Fisheries and Oceans] told me we built an NHL team [referring to] the people we have on the team. They said we couldn’t have done any better” he said.

Rustenburg acknowledges a long list of project partners such as the MNRF Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks Trout Unlimited Canada Fleming College Trent University Haliburton County Dysart et al U-Links/HCDC Total Sites Services Pat and Jenn Casey and family Fowlers Haliburton Canada Culvert/Armtec TACC/Decast Mike Holness and the Trillium Lakelands District School Board high school Chimo teacher Derek Little and environmental specialist high skills major program students at HHSS The Land Between YMCA Wanakita Haliburton Highlands Land Trust local media HHOA volunteers and the Haliburton Highlands Fly Fishing Club James Boraski Consulting Canoe FM Pump Shop Haliburton GEO Morphix which is a top restoration company in Canada land development engineering company Urbantech rental companies Sunbelt and Battlefield Rentals of Bracebridge.