How a mild winter could greatly benefit the Willamette Valley

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LANE COUNTY, Ore. - Here in the Willamette Valley, some industries could benefit from the mild conditions that we've experienced this winter.

Anglers are hopeful that the warm winter will bring on an early fishing season, which could also reel in some extra cash for the local economy.

For Frank Armendariz, he knows good fishing when he sees it. On most days, you'll find this pharmaceutical salesman-turned river guid on the banks of the McKenzie River.

But this year, however, he'll be on the water more than usual.

Almendariz says that because of the mild winter, some rivers are running lower and slower than normal, and many of the runs could arrive weeks ahead of schedule.

"The mild weather has really changed that up," said Almendariz. "Yesterday, there were actually people out here trout fishing."

Almendariz says a strong year for fishing reflects a strong local economy, luring anglers, and their wallets, to rural Oregon communities where the fishing industry is a life line for small road-side businesses.

For Derek Wing, who has worked a road-side shop for two decades, it is a great sign.

"A lot of economic activity because of fishing and just playing on the river," said Wing. "People are going out more than I thought they would be."

He says people have already been stopping in for fishing gear and licenses, fueling up their tanks or empty stomachs.

One Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife study shows the fishing and boating industry netting more than $15 million for the Willamette Valley, and these businesses are hopeful that an early start to the season will help them stay afloat this winter.

Almendariz wants to remind boaters that although it might be sunny and warm, the water is still very cold, so it's best to dress warmly and wear your life preserver.

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