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Former CFL star Brad Sinopoli tackling new waters as full-time fishing guide

Former CFL wide receiver Brad Sinopoli shows off a muskie he caught recently in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Brad Sinopoli *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Brad Sinopoli still looks forward to June.

For nine years, it marked the start of the CFL season. But now as a full-time fishing guide, June is when Sinopoli can start chasing his primary quarry, the muskellunge (commonly known as musky).

"It's so funny they coincide almost," Sinopoli said. "What I like regarding life after football is I'm still going into a season, I have an off-season and time to breathe and gather myself.

"The fishing season can be intense with long days, monotonous sometimes just like football but it almost resets every year, which is the best part about it. There are so many parallels with football and fishing."

Muskies are a top game fish because of how ferociously they fight when hooked. They're very difficult to catch and referred to as the fish of 10,000 casts.

Just like when he played football, preparation today remains key for Sinopoli, 36, who also guides for walleye, another popular fish.

"Every night I'm still looking at maps even though I've looked at them 1,000 times as our weather changes seasonally," Sinopoli said. "It's like watching game film every day.

"We'd watch a play 1,000 times but you're still looking for another detail that maybe was overlooked and you can see differently. Same with fishing."

The six-foot-four, 215-pound Sinopoli retired before the '21 campaign after playing as a quarterback-receiver with Calgary (2011-14) and Ottawa (2015-19). The Peterborough, Ont., native was twice the CFL's top Canadian (2015, 2018) and suited up with two Grey Cup winners (2014-Stampeders, 2016-Redblacks).

Sinopoli was top Canadian in the 2016 Grey Cup with six catches for 94 yards and a TD in Ottawa's 39-33 overtime win over Calgary.

"I think going out on your own terms is something in football everyone wants but very few get to do," Sinopoli said. "We were through COVID, my body was fairly healthy and I thought it was time to move on to something different."

Sinopoli developed his fishing passion from doing so with his father growing up. Sinopoli also guided a lot during the '19 season but admits he sailed into unchartered waters after football.

"It was very similar to my transition to receiver where things just kind of happened and you're like, 'OK, I want to do this and ride this wave,'" Sinopoli said. "I love what I'm doing and I think passion always drives everything but in saying that even today it's still scary because you're the only one making it go.

"But I kind of like that, it's almost like a good stress because you're not complacent. There's plenty of prep, it doesn't just happen on its own and I think that's good for you."

Sinopoli operates Sinopoli Fishing with his own 17-foot boat. That means being wary on the water because repairs are often costly and extended time in the marina means lost revenue.

"I've had to learn plenty of stuff just to understand if something goes south that's OK," Sinopoli said. "Like, we won't need the trolling motor today, we'll just do drifts.

"I try not to be risky with stuff … making smart decisions is high on the priority list."

Ottawa offers Sinopoli many fishing options, including the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River. The St. Lawrence River, another prime fishery, is nearby.

"We're extremely lucky," Sinopoli said. "There are also smaller lakes that are less travelled but amazing to just go to and be in a completely different setting."

But Sinopoli has much to juggle these days. He and his wife, Laura, recently became second-time parents with the birth of son, Miles. Older brother, J.J., is four.

"Life has changed somewhat," Sinopoli said. "But (with guiding) you can make your own schedule and choose between mornings, afternoon or full days.

"I'm on the water 6 1/2 days a week, I'm rarely fishing for fun even though it is fun. But I'm going out with a purpose as there are so many different factors to keep up with, especially with muskies because you can see patterns and movements and where they're being caught. I call it research and development."

Guiding also allows Sinopoli to reminisce about fishing with his father.

"I think about it all the time because my oldest son is four and he's been in the boat pretty much since birth," Sinopoli said. "I have vivid memories of fishing with my dad at the same age.

"We were just fishing from shore and having those type of adventures … that connection to water and fishing and just the experience of sharing it. Whether it's with your dad or your buddies, it's always been there."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2024.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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