BARRIE, ONT. -- After facing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orillia Perch Festival is finally underway.

The popular event for anglers faced numerous challenges this year due to restrictions in place as part of Ontario's stay-at-home order. It is now operating virtually, and organizers say it promises fun for the whole family.

"The big thing about fishing is you can do it at any age, with anybody of any age, and it's still a level playing field," said Doug Bunker, the special events coordinator for the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce. "So you aren't on the sidelines, you are all doing it together, and I think that's what family and memories are all about."

The event, which kicked off Saturday, will run until June 26th. Hoping to avoid large crowds convalescing around Orillia's waterways, the event is operating virtually. Participants can register by downloading the app and can fish for perch in any waterway in Simcoe County.

Bunker, an avid fisherman himself, says the fish can be found throughout the region.

"Being a perch fisherman myself, I enjoy getting out, and they are so aggressive," says Bunker. "Usually, you can sit there and nothing and all of a sudden, if you catch one perch, I can guarantee you there's a school of perch right with them because that's how they move around! So cast out once again."

There is approximately $80,000 in prizes to be won, including tagged perch awards. Participants are asked to submit a photo of every perch they catch. Those photos are then entered into an online system that randomly matches a tag with a winning fish daily.

"It could be a $100 tag, it could be a $500 tag, and there's actually two $1000 tags out there just waiting to get caught," says Bunker. "I hope some kid gets $1000; that's a great way to start your fishing habit. It's good for all ages. It's easy to do!"

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