Today we wanted to give a shout out to a very underrated species, the sailfish of the north, aka the Grayling. Thymallus arcticus is the scientific name of this fish that is closely related to trout, char and salmon. Technically there are 6 different species of grayling but the Arctic Grayling is the only one found in North America. In Alaska, the Grayling has the largest natural range of any sport fish. The only areas you wont find Grayling in the state are the Kodiak Island or the Aleutians. Outside of the US, Arctic Grayling are found in both Russian and Canada. In the US, outside of Alaska there are only a few populations of stocked Arctic Grayling in western states like California, Montana, and Colorado.
Grayling can only survive in cold, clean water, something that we have plenty of in Alaska! Similar to their cousins (trout) they occupy some of the most pristine watersheds in the world. They do not get as large as trout, but we regularly catch fish in the 18 plus inch, 3 pound range which is considered a trophy Grayling anywhere in the world. Grayling are a beautiful yet unique looking fish, most well known for their sailfish like dorsal fin.
They are a voracious species and will eat almost anything. You will hardly ever describe these fish as “picky” but they can be an absolute blast to target on lighter fly gear. Bring along that 3, 4, or 5 wt and spend an hour or two casting dry flies at this iconic species. The large Grayling that inhabit our local Kanektok River will even attack mouse flies! The large numbers of Grayling that we regularly encounter make them a great option for a shore lunch as they also have a delicious white meat.
Fun fact about Grayling, some Alaskan Arctic Grayling have been known to live to be over 30 years old! This is especially remarkable when you consider the harsh environments they inhabit. In winter time, Grayling can tolerate surprisingly low levels of dissolved oxygen (something that is common in waterbodies that freeze over) which helps them survive the long, cold Alaskan winters.
While they may not have the size appeal of the King Salmon or the airborne fighting moves as a Leopard Rainbow, we encourage all of our guests at Alaska West to spend at least an hour or two of their trip targeting this underrated gamefish.
Other Target Species: