Going fishing? The host of Fish’n Canada is asking anglers to hold their reels

Trout season opened across most of Ontario on Saturday, but the owner and co-host of a Canadian fishing TV show is urging anglers in southern Ontario to reconsider casting their lines. 

Angelo Viola, of The Fish’n Canada Show, is worried that limited riverbanks will be busy and anglers won’t be able to maintain physical distance. 

Under normal circumstances, he said up to 600 fishers flock to main rivers that feed into Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Georgian Bay during the first 24 hours of the season.

Viola is concerned that with most public boat launches closed and some municipalities imposing their own fishing bans on popular bodies of water, cabin-fevered anglers will head to the same stretches of available river. 

Angelo Viola is the owner and co-host of The Fish’n Canada Show. (@angeloviolaFNC/Twitter)

“A stretch of fishable water might be 20 feet, 25 feet wide,” he explained. “It’s not unusual for anglers to be fishing shoulder to shoulder, in unison, all vying for those catchable fish in that 20- to 25-foot stretch. It’s also not unusual to have anglers, waiting behind them, to get into those spots. And that’s where the concern comes in.”

That’s why, earlier this month, Viola started a petition calling on the province to suspend fishing activities until it lifted its COVID-19 emergency declaration.

“I decided that maybe we as anglers should … say ‘even though the government has not restricted the opening of trout season in southern Ontario, maybe we should do it, take it upon ourselves, let’s be responsible citizens and do what’s right,'” he said.

Reaction split amongst anglers

Viola said about 50 per cent of the response to the petition was negative and he was shocked. He’s since posted a clarification on The Fish’n Canada Show website, offering an apology to those who said he’d become anti-fishing.

“The motivation behind that piece was genuine concern for one another and the fact that we want to get this pandemic behind us,” he explained. 

Viola said his concerns are focused on southern Ontario and anglers from the Greater Toronto Area, and not for rural and northern parts of Ontario where fishing is a more solitary sport.

The other argument that fishing is a form of therapy is one he understands. 

“Nobody wants to go out more than I do. I haven’t missed a trout opener since I was six years old … but we have to be realistic. There are people dying. Friends, neighbours, relatives, Canadians. They’re dying every day. Surely to God we can put fishing away for a couple more days, a couple more weeks.”

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