by Dan Egan

In the eyes of fishermen, this is the magical time of year when the sun hangs low in the winter sky and anglers of all ages feel that timeless pull -- to go inside, dammit, it's freezing out there. So here's your chance to walk around in a warm building and look at fishing stuff. Yep, we're talking sportsmen's shows. And one of the best is this weekend when the 17th annual NORTHWEST GAME FISH SHOW comes to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

Unlike many shows that are run by large corporate sponsors, this show has a decidedly local feel. It is sponsored by the Spokane Walleye Club and White's Outdoors, and all proceeds from the show go toward community-based projects that focus on local fisheries and habitat preservation.

More than 50 vendors and exhibitors will be on hand to show off the latest in fishing boats, tackle and techniques. Outdoors writer and humorist Patrick McManus will be signing books on Saturday from 11 am-1 pm. Free seminars will be offered "every hour on the hour," says director Dave Mason. Want to know the best way to winter-fish Lake Roosevelt? Check out Ray Bailey's talk at 1 pm on Friday. How about smallmouth bass on Banks Lake? Luke Clausen will tell you how Friday night at 7.

With 24 different seminars scheduled during the three-day event, even the most seasoned fisherman can learn something new. Here are a few other titles to be presented: "Sneaky Presentations for Over-Pressured Fish," "Correct Propping of Boats," "Advanced Crankbaiting for Walleye," "Secrets of Stillwater Fly Fishing," "Fishing for Salmon at Hanford Reach," "Fly Fishing 101" and "Catch More Fish Guaranteed, Any Species." If you just spend the day listening to the seminars, you'll never get skunked again.

Other activities include a virtual fishing machine, a climbing wall, a kids' worm-dig and a kids' trout pond. "Tie off three feet of line with a bobber and a worm, and let 'em go," says Mason. "It's a real family event that everyone can come to and have fun."

Attending the show will also support the Spokane Walleye Club, which is a non-profit group that puts all proceeds towards improving the region's fishing opportunities. The group truly lives up to its motto of "Fishin' With A Mission." Some of the projects the club is responsible for include:

* Constructing handicapped-accessible docks at Bear and Fish Lakes;

* Improving public access at Sprague Lake;

* Funding two annual Fisheries Biology Scholarships at EWU, and purchasing a new four-wheel drive vehicle for that department to use in the field;

* Purchasing egg incubators for use in all Washington State fisheries programs;

*They also participate in the C.A.S.T for Kids program, which treats young patients at Shriners Hospital to a day of fishing.

What better way for local fisherman to spend a few bucks and a few hours on a weekend in January? It's kind of like fishing, only you can feel your fingers. The show runs Friday through Sunday. Admission is $6, kids 7-12 are $3, and kids under 6 get in free. Senior discounts and military discounts also available.

Go outside to play

Looking to work off those five holiday pounds you just gained? Maybe you're suffering a little eater's remorse for finishing that whole bag of Wahoos! in one sitting? A couple of upcoming events may be just the motivation to get outside for some winter exercise.

SNOWFEST is a free cross-country skiing and snowshoeing festival that takes place on Sunday, Jan. 6, from 10 am to 3 pm on the Nordic ski trails at Mt. Spokane State Park. The event should motivate all ages and abilities to try out the latest gear. Vendors from top gear manufacturers such as Fischer, Sherpa, Salomon and Karhu will be on hand with the latest in cross-country skis, skating skis and snowshoes. Mountain Gear and the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting the event, and experts from both organizations will be on hand to offer free skate-ski and cross-country ski lessons at 10:45 and noon. Whether you bring your favorite old skis and join the poker ski or try something new, it promises to be a fun day in the snow. Snowpark parking passes are required and are available from Mountain Gear. Call (509) 325-9000 for more information.

Telemarking your territory

Saturday, Jan. 12, at 49 Degrees North will be the place to be for the 18th annual TELEDAZE, a telemark race and ski demo. The event will include slalom races for novice and open divisions, with men's, women's and juniors' categories in each.

"It's basically a telemark race," says Nancy Lindberg, events coordinator at Mountain Gear. "People who are really good or people who are barely telemarking can both compete," she says. "It's for fun."

People will also be able to try out new gear from manufacturers who'll be on hand. Telemarking is a Nordic style of skiing in which the heels don't lock down, as they do in traditional alpine skiing. Telemark skiers are easily distinguished by their bent-knee turns, as if they are genuflecting, as they ski downhill on Nordic skis. The gear has evolved from the skinny skis used in the '70s to equipment that's not too far from current alpine ski equipment. Cost for participating in the race is $33, which includes an all-day lift ticket and a Teledaze T-shirt. The telemark ski demo is free. Call Mountain Gear at (509) 325-9000 for more information.

American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through May 23
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