Rattling Brook – Newfoundland

February 4, 2015

During the 1940’s and early 50’s, Rattling Brook was one of the premier fishing streams in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishermen came from across Canada, the US and Europe to angle one of the large salmon for which the brook was known worldwide.

In the late 1950’s, a hydro development project was completed on the brook and, as happened too frequently with productive salmon watercourses in that era, no effective mechanism was included to allow for salmon passage above the power station. For more than 50 years, Rattling Brook—a once great salmon river—became a virtual wasteland for anglers.

Thanks to foresight though, all was not lost. For a few years after the hydro installation, the returning fish which could no longer access Rattling Brook were captured at the mouth of the tailrace and used to restock Great Rattling Brook and other streams along the mighty Exploits River. Today, this river and its tributaries see annual returns of fish in the 35,000 to 45,000 range.

Hope of restoring Rattling Brook never waned and in 1999, the town of Norris Arm established an Economic Development Committee to explore the possibility of a salmon restoration project. For the next seven years, the group worked with Newfoundland Power (NP), operator of the power plant, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and various other government and conservation groups to determine the pros and cons. They projected an estimated $3 million annually in economic benefits for the town and surrounding area. However, analysis showed there would be some structural challenges, and cost would be a significant factor. But with no real “showstopper” to prohibit the project, the committee and DFO began the process of determining how to make it happen

Over the next three years, NP and DFO brokered an agreement that they shared with the committee in 2010. NP would install the necessary fish passage structures so that salmon could once again return to their rightful spawning grounds within the Rattling Brook watershed.

“The years we invested in research and building a good relationship with Newfoundland Power ultimately paid off,” recalls Allan Paddock, Chair of the Norris Arm and area committee. “NP budgeted $5 million for the restoration project, with a commitment to have the necessary structures and processes in place by 2012-2013.” The committee was asked to come up with the funds to actually restore the salmon—a cost estimated at $324,000.

The committee then turned to the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation for funding assistance and received a grant of $35,000 a year for three years, totalling $105,000, towards the five-year restocking program for Rattling Brook. Starting in 2011, some 400 salmon would be transferred each year into the watershed, an area of about 384 square kilometres. The Science Branch of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans determined that to enhance the chances of early success, the fish to be relocated should be taken from Great Rattling Brook where the original stock was transferred when the power plant was built. DFO sees the potential for annual runs of between 4,400 and 6,400 salmon when the restoration project is complete.

“Paddock says “we look forward to the day when the Rattling Brook watershed will again teem with salmon and the swish of angler rods will again be heard on the river.”