May 30, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Young people will be streaming to the banks of Lookingglass Creek to fish for hatchery spring chinook salmon beginning Saturday.

The fishing opportunity will run through the end of the month.

This is the first time in many years that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has had a salmon season for youths on Lookingglass Creek.

The fish are the last remnant of the Lookingglass Hatchery's Rapid River stock that is being phased out. The returning fish are not needed for brood stock.

With few fish available, fishery managers decided to open the season to young anglers only.

A total of 150 adult hatchery spring chinook salmon are expected to return to Lookingglass Creek this spring and summer. It is estimated that about 50 will be caught and kept.

Last year, when there was a salmon fishery open to all anglers at Lookingglass Creek, about 1,700 adult spring chinook salmon returned. About 600 of these fish were caught and kept, ODFW biologist Jeff Zakel said.

This year ODFW wanted to provide an opportunity for youths at Lookingglass Creek to fish for salmon without having to deal with crowds.

"We did not want them to have to fish in elbow-to-elbow conditions,'' Zakel said.

The ODFW also wanted to create a situation that helps young people become interested in fishing.

"We are always interested in finding ways to get children to make fishing a lifelong pursuit,'' Zakel said.

The salmon returning to Lookingglass are about 5 years old. Some will be up to three feet long and weigh 18 to 20 pounds, Zakel said.

The fish will not begin spawning until mid- August, so they should be in excellent condition, he said. The condition of salmon deteriorates dramatically when they begin the spawning process.

The daily bag limit is two fish, including jacks. Anglers can only keep chinook salmon that have both their adipose and right ventral fins clipped.

Anglers may use artificial flies and lures. Bait is not allowed in order to protect anglers from hooking and injuring bull trout and steelhead.

All anglers ages 14-17 must possess a juvenile angling license. Everyone fishing for salmon on Lookingglass Creek must have a combined harvest tag to record their catch.

Lookingglass Creek will be open along a three-mile stretch from the highway bridge at the mouth upstream to the cable crossing at Jarbo Creek, just below Lookingglass Creek's hatchery.