Catch and release: The Fish’n Canada Show hosts Angelo Viola (left) and Pete Bowman release a pink salmon caught on the Campbell River during their visit to the community to film an episode of the popular angling program. The Campbell River episode will air at a yet-to-be-determined date before Christmas and then repeated in 2014.

Fish’n Canada bears down on Campbell River

A special guest crashed the show and stole some of the limelight

It’s no surprise that the pink salmon in the Campbell River were the stars when the hosts of The Fish’n Canada Show came to town last week.

But a special guest crashed the show and stole some of the limelight while Fish’n Canada hosts Angelo Viola and Pete Bowman were filming in the river.

“We had a mother bear come right out of the forest,” said Jamie Turko, owner of Destiny River Adventures, who invited the hosts of the longest-running fishing show on Canadian television to come to town Aug. 27-30.

It was the first of a number of appearances put in by Campbell River black bears during the show’s filming. At one point Viola and Bowman watched and filmed a bear snatch a fish out of the river.

“The bears performed for us,” Turko said. “There was lots of bear action.”

The Fish’n Canada Show appearance in Campbell River came about after Turko pitched an idea to Viola and Bowman last winter. He suggested to the iconic fishing show producers that they’ve shown lots of fish being caught but would they like to show the ones that got away?

Turko’s Destiny River Adventures is well-known for its swimming with the salmon excursions in which people don wet suits, masks and snorkels and float down the river right into schools of salmon heading upriver to spawning beds.

It’s put Campbell River on the map with outdoor adventure travellers, those who might not know the area for its famous salmon fishing.

Destiny River Adventures scored a publicity coup for Campbell River a couple of years ago when they lured Canadian political satirist and T.V. personality Rick Mercer to town do a show.

The Fish’n Canada Show took the bait from Turko as well and agreed to do an episode from Campbell River. Turko worked with Tourism Campbell River and Hello B.C. to secure flights and accommodation at the Best Western Austrian Chalet for the show hosts and two camera men for four nights. When Viola and Bowman said they wanted to eat seafood when they got here, Turko took them to Quay West Kitchen and Catering who pulled out all the stops and filled them up with West Coast fare all from a reserved window seat overlooking Discovery Passage.

With great fishing on the river, bear sightings, feasting on seafood, seeing Elk Falls and even visiting Haig-Brown House, there was only one more thing that would complete Fish’n Canada’s trip to Campbell River.

Yep, you guessed it, Tyee fishing.

Viola and Bowman were given the full Tyee Club experience. They were guided by Dave Hadden in his cedar-strip rowboat on the Tyee Pool and when they came ashore, they were fed barbecued salmon. The show also filmed a segment on the history of the Tyee Club and they were able to film three qualifying Tyee landings: a 30.5, 31.5 and a 41-pounder.

“They saw these fish being caught and being weighed and the bell dinging and everything,” Turko said.

All-in-all, it turned out to be a successful visit by the popular show hosts.

“Everything went so well, except for the weather,” Turko said. After a month of sunshine, Fish’n Canada’s visit coincided with a return of rain. But despite that, the visit couldn’t have gone better. Turko said the hosts were amazed that all of this great fishing and these experiences were available right in the middle of town.

“They were blown away,” he said. “This is all going to be on national television.

“It’s going to promote this area and it’s going to make it look like a wildlife preserve or Mecca. They were really impressed.”

And that’s what Turko was hoping for. Born and raised in Campbell River, Turko wants to promote the city as much as possible. Sure, he says, it benefits his business but the exposure also benefits Campbell River.

“It’s not just about me, it’s about Campbell River and trying to keep the people here and sharing what we have to offer,” Turko said.

He was able to pull the visit off with the help of other local businesses, particularly the Best Western Austrian Chalet, Quay West Kitchen, Ryan’s Pizza, Dave Hadden and the Tyee Club, Tourism Campbell River, Hello B.C., and Coastal Wilderness Adventure who provided the licensed fishing guide.

Fish’n Canada is broadcast in 12 countries and in six languages. In Canada it is shown on Sportsnet on Saturday mornings. Turko said the Campbell River segment will be shown before Christmas in a date to be determined and will be re-broadcast four times in 2014.