Wayne Kruse stands with fishing trophies at his home on Lake Cavanaugh on March 6, 2018 in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Wayne Kruse stands with fishing trophies at his home on Lake Cavanaugh on March 6, 2018 in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Herald columnist Wayne Kruse, longtime voice of local anglers, dies

For decades, Kruse was the go-to source for the scoop on fishing, hunting and all things outdoors in Snohomish County.

EVERETT — For more than four decades when The Daily Herald’s readers opened their Thursday sports sections, they’d find Wayne Kruse’s smiling face looking back at them, attached to a story telling them the weekend outlook for Snohomish County anglers.

Kruse’s influence in the local outdoors community was unmatched.

The Herald’s longtime outdoors columnist died Feb. 17 after dealing with multiple medical issues. He was 85. Kruse leaves behind a legacy of 43 years as the go-to source for information about fishing, hunting, clam digging and all kinds of other outdoor recreational activities in Snohomish County.

“He was their voice, and the guy people would turn to to find out what was going on out there, where it’s hot and where it’s not,” said Kirby Arnold, who was The Herald’s sports editor from 1987 to 1998. “I felt Wayne was the expert, not only in our readership area, but in the state. He was very influential. I’d put his work up against anybody, and our readership was extremely loyal to him. He had a great following.”

Kruse, a soft-spoken family man and education advocate, was born Aug. 9, 1937, into an outdoorsy Seattle family. He graduated from the University of Washington, served three years in the U.S. Navy and taught middle school English in the Edmonds School District.

But the outdoors were his passion — and fishing in particular.

“My grandfather took him fishing,” Kruse’s son Murray said. “They were an outdoors family when he was a kid growing up, and he loved it.”

During his time as a teacher, Kruse began freelancing as an outdoors writer, with articles published in magazines like Field & Stream and Outdoor Life. Then in 1976, he was hired by The Herald as an outdoors columnist.

Kruse embedded himself in the local outdoors community. At the height of his coverage, he would have his Thursday fishing report, as well as a full outdoors page that ran on Sundays. In the days before the internet, he was a must-read for outdoor enthusiasts. His columns continued to be published in The Herald until he retired in 2018.

Kevin Brown, The Herald’s sports editor from 2002 to 2020, remembered how every Wednesday, when he arrived at the newsroom at 8:30 a.m., Kruse would already be positioned at a terminal, making phone calls that were either answered or promptly returned, ensuring that information would be as fresh as possible for his Thursday stories.

“He knew everybody (in the local outdoors community) and had good relationships with everybody,” said Brown, who fondly recalled his conversations with Kruse about the Civil War and Kruse’s grandchildren. “That included governmental officials dealing with fishing and hunting. He knew all the guides, all the guys at the outdoor stores. He knew everybody and was highly respected by everybody, so he had a tremendous amount of sources, which made him a really good reporter.”

The reason why Kruse had so many sources was because he earned the trust of the local outdoors community. One of his regular sources was Gary Krein, owner of Everett-based All Star Fishing Charters. Krein had an article Kruse wrote in the 1970s pasted on his wall for years, about the state Department of Fish & Wildlife creating artificial reefs in Puget Sound.

“He was super honest about the fishing, always,” Krein said. “He didn’t downplay it. He was super honest about it and he expected honesty from his contacts. That’s what I really respected about him.”

Kruse was also a wordsmith whose writing appealed to both the most experienced outdoor experts and the greenest of novices.

“He was such a gifted writer,” Arnold said. “I still think that it’s important in our business not only to inform, but to entertain. He was just amazing with words. I always loved his winter steelhead fishing preview, every year he’d put in the line, ‘You’re going to freeze your fern,’ and I loved it.”

Kruse wasn’t the only Herald institution in the family. His wife Judyrae, who died in 2017, was a longtime food and home columnist at the newspaper.

“(Kruse) used to kind of joke about how she was more popular than him,” Krein said.

And Kruse fully appreciated his long tenure at The Herald.

“He loved it,” Murray Kruse said. “He thought it was the best thing in the world. His way of thinking was, it wasn’t a job, it was just something he did. He wasn’t forced to go do it, it was a passion and he just happened to make money doing it.”

Kruse is survived by his sons Morgan and Murray Kruse, their spouses Theresa and Lisa, as well as his grandsons Keegan, Conner and Tanner — all of whom he taught about the outdoors, and instilled a love for the outdoors.

In his last column published before his retirement, Kruse offered some parting wisdom.

“Traditional outdoor sportsmen and women are the most active supporters of resource conservation we have, so if you do nothing else for the cause, join a club or organization. Conservation doesn’t come free, and if you don’t at least put a few bucks in the pot, you have no basis for complaint.”

Another suggestion, he wrote: “Take a kid fishing, any kid, your kid, the neighbor’s kid.”

“At 80 years of age,” Kruse continued, “I think I can still sling a mean verb, but without one of Judyrae’s special fisherman’s sandwiches, it isn’t the same. So with this column, I’ll just hang up my hoochie, turn off the PC and say bless you all — it’s been a blast.”

Nick Patterson: 425-339-3470; npatterson@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @NickHPatterson

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