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Arctic Grayling

Updated on December 2, 2014

Arctic Grayling - "Sailfish of the North"

The Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is a species of freshwater fish in the salmon family. It is recognizable by its sail-like dorsal fin and is sometimes called the "sailfish of the north."

This unusual fish is a spectacular fighter on fly fishing gear, often leaping out of the water when hooked.

The arctic grayling is an official symbol of Canada's Northwest Territory.

Five subspecies exist, with T. a. arcticus being the most widespread. This popular gamefish prefers cold, clear lakes and fast-moving streams in Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and parts of Montana.

Arctic Grayling - Description

The Arctic grayling can reach lengths of about 24 inches and weigh roughly 5 pounds.

Coloration can vary with location, even differing from stream to stream. The dorsal fin is typically fringed in red and dotted with large iridescent red, aqua, or purple spots and markings. Dorsal markings are most obvious on large grayling.

The back of the Arctic grayling is usually dark. The sides can be black, silver, gold, or blue. Gold markings sometimes form a border between the sides and belly, while pelvic fins may be bright orange, red, or pink.

The sides and head can be freckled with black spots. The eye iris is often gold in color.

Arctic Grayling Fishing Techniques

Fly fishermen targeting arctic grayling often use dry flies such as black gnats, dark cahill or brown hackle.

Some anglers prefer spinning tackle for grayling, often choosing small spinners or jigs as lures.

Missouri River Basin Arctic Grayling ESA Listing

In September of 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that listing the upper Missouri River basin Distinct Population Segment of Arctic grayling, as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted.

FWS chose to classify the Arctic grayling as a candidate species until a listing proposal can be prepared. Candidate species do not receive statutory protection under the ESA and remain state-managed species.


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