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Sportsmen's Show features Women's Fishing Forum, other excitement this weekend

COURTESY: PACIFIC NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN'S SHOW - Fishing guides Ashley Nichole Lewis (above) and Lacey DeWeert will be part of the first Women's Fishing Forum, 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show. They both encourage women to try their hands at fishing. 'It can be intimidating,' Lewis says. 'Everything's geared toward men. It's starting to change.'For guide Ashley Nichole Lewis, fishing was part of her upbringing in Elma, Washington, 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," said Lewis, now 29, 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, Washington, 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," said DeWeert, 43, who lives in Woodland, Washington, and is also a teacher in the Kelso School District.

Lewis and DeWeert are making an 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 at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Sportsmen's Show, the largest show of its kind west of the Mississippi River, runs through Sunday. There'll be almost 900 exhibits and exhibitors filling four halls at the Expo Center for the celebration of hunting, fishing and outdoors recreation.

And, there'll likely be scores of women there, as the trend of more women doing outdoors activities such as fishing, hunting and camping continues. The Women's Fishing Forum is open to only women.

Lewis and DeWeert are two of few women guides in the Northwest. So, they can have a big impact on women wanting to become fisherpersons.

"If you don't have that support system around you, it's harder to get involved in it," Lewis said. "It can be intimidating. Everything's geared toward men. It's starting to change. We encourage them to get into it."

DeWeert added: "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 said 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.

"You always have those conversations up front," DeWeert said.

And, then there is the simple act of getting ready and going fishing.

For any beginner attending the Sportsmen's Show, for instance, Lewis said 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 said. "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."

"I always tell people to get educated," DeWeert said. "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."

Hours for the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 7-9, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 10, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 11, at the Expo Center, 2060 N. Marine Drive.

Admission is $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.

For complete show details, see www.otshows.com.

It's the 43rd Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show, and the O'Loughlin family of Portland has operated the show and its predecessor going back 70 years.

"Literally, I've grown up with the shows," said Terrence O'Loughlin, who produces the show with brothers Bill and Peter and other family members. "We also do the home shows, boat shows, RV shows and flower shows. My favorite is the sports show. I'm an outdoorsman myself."

The O'Loughlin brothers went to the same grade school, Jesuit High School and Oregon State University, where they belonged to the same fraternity.

"Yeah, we have disagreements and days we don't like each other, but at the end of the day we're pulling the same way," Terrence added.

COURTESY: PACIFIC NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN'S SHOW - The kokanee tank is a new part of the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show.

A new feature at the show is a kokanee tank with live,12- to 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," Trey Carskadon, the show's public relations director, said. "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.

The Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show is the second largest in the country after the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the Portland show.

"The stars seem to be aligning: It seems like the consumer confidence is there, the show is so well-established and there's been a buzz," Carskadon said. "There's bedlam from day one to the day it closes. I think it'll be record attendance this year.

"We draw people from all over the country. There's nothing else like it. There's a realization here locally of how big of a deal it is. The O'Loughlins haven't beat their chest about how big of a deal it is."

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 said.

COURTESY: PACIFIC NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN'S SHOW - The Head & Horns Competition measures the top mounted trophies at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show.

Among the other highlights:

• The Kids Trout Pond is filled with trout up to eight pounds 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.COURTESY: PACIFIC NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN'S SHOW - Fishing boats of all kinds are on display at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show.

• 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.

• There'll be more than 40 hours of hunting and fishing seminars.

Again, for complete information, see www.otshows.com.

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