Fishing for a hobby? This show's for you
For guide Ashley Nichole Lewis, fishing was just part of her upbringing in Elma, Wash., as a member of the Quinault tribe.
It was something a young woman should do, and did.
"You got in trouble or you go fishing. I picked fishing," says Lewis, now 29, who is known as "Bad Ash" and a University of Washington student.
"As a Quinault native, fishing and hunting is part of our subsistence culture. As I got older, there was encouragement from elders in the tribe to spend time on the reservation and understand where I'm from. Fishing has been the thing I've taken to the most."
Growing up in Kelso, Wash., Lacey DeWeert fished with her family, mainly for trout, and it just became part of her lifestyle. She met her husband, Kevin Newell, in high school and they fished throughout their younger years in Eastern Washington and Idaho. And when the time was right, they became guides and started their own chartering company, Total Fisherman Guide Service, which operates boats out of Astoria.
"My dad and I went in halves on a boat, and I run the boat," says DeWeert, 43, who now lives in Woodland, Wash., and is also a teacher in the Kelso School District.
Lewis and DeWeert are making a joint appearance this week at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show at the Expo Center as part of the first Women's Fishing Forum. They'll be joined by Renee Johnson and Valerie Fulleton for a wide-ranging discussion that starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8.
The Sportsmen's Show, the largest show of its kind west of the Mississippi River, runs through Sunday, Feb. 11. There'll be almost 900 exhibits and exhibitors filling four halls at the Expo Center for the celebration of hunting, fishing and outdoors recreation.
More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the show, but the Women's Fishing Forum is open only to women. Lewis and DeWeert are two of the few women guides in the Northwest, and they know they can have a big impact on women wanting to become anglers.
"If you don't have that support system around you, it's harder to get involved in it," Lewis says. "It can be intimidating. Everything's geared toward men. It's starting to change. We encourage them to get into it."
Says DeWeert: "The interest is growing. I have women go with me all the time."
There can be impediments to full enjoyment. Fish can be slimy and smelly. With salmon, for instance, you have to bonk them on the head to put them out — which can be disconcerting. But Lewis says one impediment rises above the rest: Women are most concerned with where they can go to the bathroom, especially if fishing in a skiff. The solution is usually a trip back to the dock.
Says DeWeert: "You always have those conversations up front."
And then there is the simple act of getting ready and going fishing.
For any beginner attending the Sportsmen's Show, for instance, Lewis says it's important for them to determine what gear they need and don't need.
"You'll see 5,000 items on one aisle," she says. "You need a rod/reel and bait."
Pick one strategy, such as float fishing with worms. And understand how to fish, as in which location, at what time and under which conditions.
"It's all fun and games if you have the best clothes and best rod, but if you don't know where to go, you're out of the game already," she says.
Says DeWeert: "I always tell people to get educated — take a seminar, which usually doesn't cost anything, and go and listen. And it's important that people getting into the sport contact somebody who's knowledgeable, a mentor or guide ... to accelerate the learning curve from somebody willing to teach."
Also on tap this weekend
• A new feature at the show is a kokanee tank with live,12-16-inch kokanee, otherwise known as landlocked sockeye salmon, raised in a hatchery near Albany.
"It may not be a flash of bright light in the sky for non-anglers, but among anglers it's a big deal," says Trey Carskadon, the show's public relations director.
"The state releases them into lakes around the region as fingerlings, and we're the first to raise them to catchable size. Nobody knew it would work."
Some of the kokanee males are starting to turn red, as in ready to spawn and then die.
Kokanee can be caught in the wild at Detroit Lake, Lake Merwin in Southwest Washington and Odell Lake east of Eugene.
• In the Head & Horns Competition, members of the public can bring in their mounted elk/deer/moose heads and antlers and have them judged.
"Some folks might have animal heads that have been in the attic and don't know the history," Carskadon says.
• The Kids Trout Pond is filled with trout up to eight pounds that are there for the catching; the Indoor Steelhead River features live steelhead, and there'll be demonstrations of fishing tactics and techniques.
• Brett Stoffel again puts on his educational survival seminar daily.
• It's officially called the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show and Sport Fishing Boat Show, meaning there'll be fishing boats galore for show and purchase.
• The daily Sportsmen's Rendezvous fundraiser supports the Safari Club International's Dream Hunts Northwest, which provides hunting and fishing trips to terminally ill kids.
•Camp cooking experts share their knowledge with demonstrations.
All together, there will be more than 40 hours of hunting and fishing seminars at the show. For more information, go to www.otshows.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show
When: Feb. 7-9
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 7-9; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10; and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11
Where: Expo Center, 2060 N. Marine Drive.
Admission: $15 for adults, $5 for juniors (ages 6-16) and free for kids 5 and younger. Adult tickets purchased after 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, are $8. There is also a two-day pass available for $24.