The Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is one of the most beautiful freshwater fish found in Alaska. Arctic Grayling have the largest natural range of any sport fish, occupying nearly the whole state of Alaska.
Arctic Grayling achieve a wide array of colors. Coloration can vary from stream to stream. Their dorsal fins are typically fringed in red and dotted with large iridescent red, aqua, or purple spots and markings. These colorful markings are most dramatic on large grayling.
Growing up to 23 inches and 5 lbs, the Arctic Grayling has a short head and a long slender body. The coolest feature is its large single dorsal fin. The arctic grayling is attractively colored, with a gray, blue, or purple dorsal surface, which fades to gray or blue with pink pearlescent on the sides and a grey or white belly. Just in front of the pelvic fins, its sides are peppered with dark spots, while the dorsal and adipose fins are a dark purple-blue color. Its long pelvic fins are dark and don bright mauve or orange color lines.
Spawning usually occurs between April to June. Arctic Grayling travel to small streams, preferably those with gravelly or rocky bottoms, to spawn. During the breeding season, males become aggressive and territorial. When confronted by an intruder, they exhibit threat displays: they raise their large dorsal fin, extend their pelvic fins, and vibrate their bodies to fend off any other suitors. Not only is their long dorsal fin used in threat displays, but it is important during spawning; males use the fin as a clasping organ to hold the female. During the mating process, the male and female vibrate side by side, releasing eggs and milt into the water. Then eggs are covered by material stirred up from the stream bottom during the vibrations of the mating pair. The eggs hatch in two weeks, releasing small larvae nourished by their yolk sac for another week as alevin. Adult grayling feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects, fish eggs, small fish, and even small crustaceans.
Cool looking, abundant, and aggressive Arctic Grayling is a much-underappreciated gamefish by many anglers. But those in the know, know these highly aggressive fish will strike a variety of fly patterns and super fun to catch on light rods. One of the most exciting ways to catch Arctic Grayling is skating a size 6 mouse pattern topwater.
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