What is an Arctic Grayling?

Written by in Fishing
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

After briefly hearing the name Arctic Grayling while watching a nature documentary recently, I became curious about what these animals are. 

So, I did some research to find out for myself.

What is an Arctic Grayling? Arctic graylings are an aquatic species that occupy the Northern regions of the world. Arctic graylings hunt for almost anything they can get their hands on, and can grow to be over 20 inches long in their adult years. This species is a common target for fishers of all kind.

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If you’ve ever wondered what exactly an Arctic Grayling is, you’ve come to the right place. Skim through this quick guide to find out everything you need to know about what they are and how to fish for them.

Arctic Grayling Are a Part of The Salmon Family

Arctic grayling are a part of the Salmon family. Arctic grayling, clearly indicating a frigid habitat, occupy the northern regions of our world. In Alaska, the continental 48, Canada, and Russia.

Arctic Grayling Characteristics

  • Occupy Arctic waters
  • Hunt and grow throughout life cycle
  • Will eat almost anything in their path

The Arctic grayling have a default counterpart known as the "grayling" and is found throughout Europe. While the grayling and Arctic grayling share a plethora of biological similarities, fishing for Arctic grayling prominently outranks the popularity of the European graylings for fisherman worldwide.

Arctic grayling can be found in frigid, crystal clear water, and are easily found in the Spring, Summer, and Fall when the salmon spawn. You'll know when you catch one, they have a striking dorsal fin that stands like a sail and tend to fight when bringing in your line.

The largest Arctic grayling ever caught measured in at 30 inches and boasted over 6 pounds of white meat. On average, you're likely to reel a grayling around a foot long. Though, if you can make your way out to North Slope in Alaska, you'll quickly come across some 19-inch swimmers.

Arctic graylings are beautiful fish, with a blue-purple luminary spectrum pronounced over their scales and are best observed and appreciated in natural daylight. Males have a more pronounced luminescence, though both genders subtly display their beauty over their natural gray undertones.

In rare cases, Arctic Grayling catches have even presented a pink wash over the scales, though you'd be pretty lucky if you found one of those at the end of your line. Graylings are, undoubtedly, one of the most desired fish for the seasoned fisherman purely for their spectrum of beauty.

After the testing months of the arctic's sub-zero winter, grayling emerge from the depths of lakes and rivers and migrate to the now warm, shallow water.

They are not very protective of their young at all, so once the eggs are spawned the adults head out to find food for themselves. You’ll find the grayling in runoff from Arctic bogs and rivers.

It is also a known fact that Arctic graylings operate on a hierarchical status based on territory deemed by the biggest and baddest fish. The larger graylings will be found at the head of a pool for the best feeding opportunities, while the smaller, younger, and less formidable peers live farther down the current where leftovers can be found.

Often times, if there are any trees or vegetation submerged under the water, you can spot shy female grayling taking cover away from the territorial males. If fishing, females under vegetation can be easily coaxed out some of the shy graylings with an attractive spinner.

As fall comes to a close, the Arctic graylings migrate in return towards the deeper depths of rivers and lakes to live passively through the long winter months winter.

Arctic graylings are some of the only aquatic animals that can survive the low oxygen levels in the depths of the freezing northern lakes. The evolutionary feature makes them unique, and well equipped for their habitat.

Graylings like to eat, and they aren't known for being particularly picky. In fact, 90 percent of an Arctic graylings growth happens during the short Summer season.

Due to the information, the eating habits of graylings are wolfish and somewhat aggressive, because of their territorial nature. Graylings feast upon insects, larvae, crustacean plankton, and salmon eggs during the fall, when salmon spawn.

When large enough, Arctic grayling show no remorse in eating smaller fish. If you will be going fishing for these creatures, keep in mind that graylings do tend to go down with a bit of a fight. They often try to negotiate with the hook, but they are usually unsuccessful if you can capitalize on a sound bite.

Fishing For Arctic Grayling

Fishing For Arctic Grayling:

  • Easy to catch for beginners
  • Can use almost anything for bait
  • Can be found in a variety of different water bodies

The Arctic Grayling is on every fly fisherman's to-catch list. If you're able to travel up the natural habitats of Alaska or Canada, you'll have an unforgettable experience with some of the most profound scenery you will ever lay eyes on.

The Arctic is a well-traveled destination for those looking to catch the premiere fresh Arctic grayling.

Graylings are surprisingly easy to bait and catch, making it an excellent fish for children and beginners to throw a line at. Even as an entry-level fish, the universal love for the Arctic grayling attracts fisherman and fisher ladies from all corners of the globe.

For those of us, fishing enthusiasts who desire a genuine Alaskan memory, a trip to the great North for an opportunity to spend some quality time with fresh air, foliage, and a trademark grayling are highly sought and anticipated.

Graylings are keen to munch on bait due to their short window of Summer feeding, but they sometimes elect to take a frequent nibble in place of a brave bite. Fortunately, grayling swim in clear shallow water, so chances are you may be lucky enough to have a line of sight on your lure.

As a fisher, it all depends on where you decide to cast. Arctic grayling are in most Alaskan river systems, so there's no need to be needlessly picky when searching for the perfect pool.

The ravenous appetite makes any fly or small spinner an ideal throw. In the grayling's eyes, if it moves and can fit in their mouth, it's worth checking out.

This habit, obviously, works in your favor when you throw a line, as you can use just about any tackle or bait to lure them.

In Spring, your luck will grow as the females come out of their hiding places to meet males in the more docile areas of a current. In Summer, Arctic graylings are in their natural abundance in shallow waters, making for easy fishing, especially if you head upstream towards the top of the pool.

In the Fall, you'll find easy catches as grayling scour around salmon spawn to feast on eggs. If legal in your fishing area, baiting with salmon eggs are a sure fire way to catch grayling in the fall.

As previously mentioned you travel upstream, you'll find that healthier and stronger fish are dominating the territory at the head of the pool.

This domain, of course, has first dibs at food, so your biggest catches will, therefore, be upstream. Arctic graylings are in the survival of the fittest mentality, so if you're looking to hedge your luck for population density, or you are showing the ropes to children then you may consider casting a little closer to the bottom of the pool.

Related Questions About Arctic Grayling

Do Spinners Work Well When Fishing Arctic Grayling?

Spinners are great for Arctic Grayling, as the graylings nibble at anything underwater which moves. You'll have your best luck with 1-1.5" spinners. It's been said that graylings are responsive to black, white, and earth-toned jigs.

What Time of Year Is Best for Catching Arctic Grayling?

Summer, hands down, is going to prove to be the most prolific season to catch Arctic grayling. Grayling have a short Summer window for feeding to grow as much as possible, and they head to shallow water with the warmer weather, making them easy to locate, bait, and catch.

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