What Food do Arctic Grayling Eat?

When the topic of fishing for Arctic Grayling came up in recent conversation, I was curious how they are caught.

So, I did some research to find out what these unique fish typically eat.

What Food Do Arctic Grayling Eat?

Arctic grayling eat black flies, mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, larvae, crustaceans, and often non-prey items. Larger grayling particularly enjoy the Fall months when they can prey on salmon eggs. Arctic graylings have a reputation for eating anything that moves.

Looking to pick the right bait to convince an Arctic grayling to bite on your cast? Arctic grayling love all kinds of bugs.

While grayling are happy eaters, they do have their favorites! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about their diet.

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Arctic Grayling Typical Diet

Basic diet:

  • Blackflies
  • Mayflies
  • Dipteran
  • Cladocera

The basic diet of an Arctic Grayling will change as it develops in age and size.

Often times, juvenile graylings in the initial growth are restricted to larvae and plankton, not even able to open their mouths wide enough to swallow insects.

As they grow older and depending on how far north their habitat is, Arctic graylings enjoy mayflies, blackflies, dipteran, and cladocera.

During the cold winter months, the standard selection of bugs can be too scarce for a steady diet. Arctic grayling dive to deeper depths of water to eat plankton and larvae while they conserve energy under ice through the winter.

The northern habitual Arctic graylings only experience a brief summer season. In this short time, graylings are ravenous eaters. Their appetite isn’t picky, as they will feast upon whatever moves.

Arctic graylings love to eat blackflies, mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies, basically, any aquatic insect. Occasionally, graylings will impose upon territory and eat salmon eggs in the process of incubation.

Arctic graylings are also known to eat smaller fish and any edible biology from land that falls into the water. Researchers in Alaska found that some graylings even ate voles, finding up to seven voles in a stomach of one well-fed grayling.

In the wintertime, the Arctic graylings lessen their appetite and conserve energy. In more frigid climates, graylings may wind down in lakes and low current rivers.

As the weather gets colder, and a freezing habitat lessens nutritional opportunities, graylings are known to live passively under ice until spring. Interestingly, despite enjoying the well-oxygenated waters, in Alaska, the graylings reportedly survive in low-oxygen water underneath the ice.

Arctic Grayling Favorite Foods


  • Smaller fish
  • Insects
  • Salmon eggs (seasonal)

Arctic grayling have no problem eating smaller fish when they are hungry. When insects lose populous in the winter, the graylings dive to the deeper waters of lakes and rivers in feed on crustaceans and larvae.

Favorites of grayling are drift, which are their favorite catalog of insects. Salmon eggs, of course, are a seasonal treat for the fish, and make for highly effective bait is legal where you’re fishing.

Arctic grayling also eat plastics and waste in the water due to pollution. If you do catch an Arctic grayling for food, make sure you clean it, and any fish you catch, thoroughly before prepping and cooking

Arctic Grayling


  • Shiny scales
  • blue, purple, an pink undertones
  • Spawn during spring/summer

Arctic graylings are a colorful and shimmery fish, with blue and purple undertones across their many scales.

The male graylings are more vibrant than the females in general, although both genders subtly display their beauty over their natural gray undertone. Some of these fish even have a pink tint to their shiny skin.

Graylings are one of the most sought after fish purely for their hidden spectrum of beauty, which is best revealed in natural daylight.

Arctic Grayling most commonly spawn during the spring and summer seasons. After their eggs have been laid, the adults will continue on with their lives and head to feeding grounds.

They can be found in rivers, lakes, and more often streams now that the warmer temperatures can help sustain life in more shallow depths.

While fishing for grayling among any trees or vegetation submerged under the water, you will most likely be able to use a spinner to bring them out of hiding.

As fall comes to a close, the Arctic graylings migrate towards the depths of rivers and lakes to live passively through winter. Arctic graylings are some of the only aquatic animals that can survive the low oxygen levels in the depths of freezing lakes. The evolutionary feature makes them unique, and fit for the habitat.

Arctic Grayling & Hunting

Hunting Patterns:

  • Foraging near the water surface
  • Hunting in deeper waters
  • Migrating to find the best food

If a grayling wants to live and grow, it has to know how to forage for food and outgrow its peers, so it doesn’t fall short in its natural domain.

Throughout their lifetimes, Arctic Graylings will migrate through the Arctic to find better food.

Within less than a week of birth, the grayling will begin hunting for food and eating. Many grayling begin foraging the day they hatch, while some procrastinators save the appetite until the last possible moment 96 hours later. At this point in their life, feeding is such a desperate act that they will literally eat anything, even if it is not food.

For grayling that are up to 3 years old, foraging and hunting for food often end in their own fatality. The small size of a juvenile grayling makes it easy prey for larger fish like the brown trout to gorge upon.

With that being said, the grayling larvae feed on drift in surface layers of rivers and streams. Remaining a good 5cm from the surface, they wait patiently in an uncluttered pool breaking the current of a river channel. As invertebrates drift along the ebb and flow of the water, the small grayling intercepts and eat what can fit in its little mouth.

As a juvenile grayling grow in size and age, it can begin feeding and foraging in lower depths of a river. Deeper in rivers and streams lie a more dense food supply, which caters towards the initial growth spurt of graylings.

Still, the arctic grayling does not give up its surface foraging, as it chases down drift just the same as in it’s smaller stages of evolution. Within one summer, you can anticipate a highly successful grayling growing to 6 inches in length, if lucky.

As the Arctic grayling grows, the mouth rises wider in capacity, increasing the amount of food that can be eaten. The most intense appetites are found at dawn and dusk, as the hungry graylings compete in the pools for the best bites.

There is plenty of daytime feeding, though anticipation of night time and entrance to daylight come across as natural motivators for a grayling’s appetite.

Arctic graylings do not hunt so much as they forage. The predatory behaviors do occur in October, as throughout fall, graylings will be particularly hungry and gorge upon the recently spawned eggs of salmon.

Related Questions

Do Arctic Grayling fight for fFood?

Territorial and aggressive, yes, but grayling aren’t disputing. If one grayling is nominally larger than one at the head of a poo the larger fish will not move. After enough larger fish populate an feeding area, the smaller Arctic grayling move downstream.

Do Arctic Grayling migrate for different food?

Mammals are much more likely to fall into the water and be eaten by a grayling in parts of interior Alaska as opposed to grayling on the North Slope.

That being said, they’re migration patterns for food only exist for salmon eggs, not for any of their drift or other prey.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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