Thursday, February 22, 2024


Humpies, lawsuits and trout



Odd numbered years are pink salmon years here in Washington State and 2023 is lining up to be a good one for anglers fishing for them in Puget Sound and its tributary streams. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is forecasting a return of nearly four million of these smaller salmon, nicknamed “humpies”, for the hump the males develop on their back after entering fresh water to spawn.

The pinks show up in the Strait of Juan De Fuca as early as June and can be caught by both boat and shore anglers in Puget Sound throughout the month of August. By September, most of the pink salmon are entering tributary streams like the Skagit, Snohomish, Skykomish, Green and Puyallup Rivers, providing additional opportunities for anglers who target them with Buzz Bomb lures, jigs with squid bodies and spoons, the key to all of them is that they must be pink in color if you want to catch pinks with them. Humpies are a fun fish to cut your teeth on as a first-time salmon angler and it’s not uncommon to catch a good number of them in a day of fishing. While many anglers save them for the smoker, they do taste very good when fresh, especially when grilled over a BBQ or pellet smoker.


On March 6 the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, which is a pro-hunting and fishing organization, filed a lawsuit in Thurston County to prohibit WDFW Commissioner Lorna Smith from participating as a member of the Commission. The basis for the lawsuit is that state law prohibits anyone from holding an additional elected or appointed office while serving on the commission. Smith currently serves on the Jefferson County Planning Commission which the Sportsman’s Alliance says is in direct violation of Washington Law.

Todd Adkins with the Sportsman’s Alliance says, "We view this lawsuit as the initial step of a long but important process to bring sanity and decency back to wildlife decision-making in Washington. It all starts here, but trust me, it won’t end here. The animal extremists are going to see a lot of the same in the coming weeks and months."

Lorna Smith is a controversial appointee to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Since being appointed in 2021 by Governor Jay Inslee she was an instrumental voice in shutting down Washington’s long running spring bear hunt, despite the recommendation of WDFW staff members that it be allowed to take place. 

When the Blue Mountain elk herd declined (primarily due to cougar predation), Smith suggested managing the herd as a smaller one instead of addressing the predation issues. She has also introduced the framework of a plan that would limit hunting as a management tool by the agency.

It is worth noting that Smith is not the only commissioner serving in another appointed or elected position. Commissioner Molly Linville (who generally sides with hunters in her decision making), serves on her local school board in Douglas County.  

Eli Francovich, writing for the Spokesman Review, contacted both commissioners.  Linville told Francovich that she was advised by legal counsel that serving on the school board was not a conflict of interest. Commissioner Smith told Francovich she was serving on the Jefferson County Planning Commission on a volunteer basis and in an advisory role when appointed to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Smith continued stating she does not believe the statute does not preclude individuals serving in a volunteer position like she has been in Jefferson County.


Last but not least, I made it up to Lake Lenore this past week after WDFW fisheries biologist Mike Schmuck told me the fishing there was very good last year, and he expected similar results this season. I picked a cold, cloudy day to visit the north end of the lake which is where many of the Lahontan cutthroat trout tend to mill around in the spring prior to spawning.

Unfortunately, the trout were not yet in this part of the lake in good numbers. Two anglers who were leaving as I arrived said they each only caught one fish that day.  While fishing, I did see one angler catch one trout and while I did get one good strike, I was unable to hook up and didn’t have any more bites that afternoon.

Lake Lenore is a selective regulation fishery and is primarily a catch and release destination where the trout average two to three pounds and can get up to six pounds in size. Fly anglers in pontoon boats favor fishing chironomids under strike indicators while spin anglers can do well fishing spoons with single, barbless hooks.

The fishing at this scenic, desert lake north of Soap Lake should get better towards the end of March and peak in April. I plan to return to try again and will let you know how I do.

John Kruse – and



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