We should be arriving at the Round Tangle Lake Campground at about 1700hrs. Time to get dinner and then to the mouth of the local streams to try catching some of the Arctic Grayling this area in known for. Wish we had a boat.
Arctic Grayling have a sail-like dorsal fin marked with numerous purple, blue or red spots. Their dorsal is so large that it can sometimes be taller than the actual width of the fish’s body. The darkest color on a grayling is at the top of its body, where it can even appear black. Their sides have tiny scales and the overall color can range from iridescent gray to even a light greenish blue. Patterns of numerous black spots are also common. The pelvic fins can also beam with pink to orange stripes. Grayling that live in the clearest of water tend to display more fantastic colors.
Almost all of Alaska’s freshwater rivers, streams and lakes contain arctic grayling. An individual fish may actually spend parts of its life in all three bodies of water. Grayling commonly choose different streams for spawning, feeding and wintering. But if the habitat is favorable, some individuals will spend an entire lifetime in one small river bend or lake without ever leaving. The only region absent of the abundant species is the Aleutians.
Hungry grayling will search for food below and above the surface. They consume other smaller fish, but mainly eat aquatic insects. They will inspect anything floating on the surface but are mostly fond of mayflies, stone flies, and caddis flies. Grayling are advantageous and will feed on freshly spawned salmon eggs, fish carcasses and on non-aquatic insects such as common flies and mosquitoes. Although rare, at times larger grayling will swallow small voles or shrews that happen to be treading water.
Grayling are not picky and are readily taken on dry flies, streamers, small spinners, spoons and bait such as eggs. However, at times grayling will prefer one particular food source to another. Thus, different types of tackle and flies should be tried until one has been proven effective. Light spinning gear and fly rods offer anglers the most fun. Cast and retrieve is the best way to work a river or lake and many Grayling are found at mid-level depths. Water visibility is a prime factor. Very murky or muddy water is usually non-productive.
During winter, many grayling seek deeper water and will stay in either lakes or in the deep pools of rivers. Due to their high tolerance for low dissolved oxygen levels, grayling can even survive under the ice of glacial rivers where many fish cannot.
In spring, grayling act like salmon by migrating upstream and returning to the individual spawning grounds. Some fish will travel as far as 100 miles. Grayling become sexually mature at the age of 4 or 5 years, at which time it will span about 11 to 12 inches in length. Actual spawning closely mirrors that of other fish. Grayling eggs hatch open within three weeks and by fall the fry will have drifted downstream to wintering grounds.
After spawning, the adults depart to summer feeding areas where they will group together based on age and size. Larger grayling relocate near stream headwaters, mid-adults take to the middle and juveniles are found in the lowest reaches.