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What is Grayling?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

The grayling is a species of fish which is commonly found in Europe and Russia. It is part of the salmon family and is a freshwater fish and hence isn’t found in oceans or seas. The Thymallus thymallus, as it is scientifically known, is a relatively small fish although it can reach up to 24 inches (60cm) in size in some cases. Its diet is partly made up of other fish as well as plants although it is also prey for larger fish. The fish are regularly used as targets for recreational fishing in the United Kingdom and France although this is limited to certain seasons for conservation reasons.

Although the maximum recorded size of a grayling fish is around 24 inches on average they are much smaller than this. Typically, the fish will weigh less than 15 pounds (just under 7 kilograms) although most weigh considerably less than this. The fish can live for a relatively long time — some have been recorded to live more than 14 years. All these variables depend on the living conditions of the fish.


The grayling usually lives in cold and clear waters such as rivers and streams. It can be found, however, in certain lakes. Along with smaller fish it also eats insects and spiders amongst other things. Along with the Arctic grayling the fish is important as it is raised for both sporting and commercial reasons. Although the fish is protected under the Bern Convention it is placed in the “least concern” category when it comes to conservation status.

Amongst fishermen or women the grayling is often called the “lady of the stream.” This is a reference to the fact that the fish used to be hunted in order to reduce competition in rivers for other fish such as trout. For a certain period of time the grayling was thought of as a pest. Even though trout are generally larger fish the grayling usually hunts in shoals and hence is difficult for the trout to compete with.

Fly fishermen or women in the U.K. fish for grayling during the coarse season, which runs from the middle of June through to the middle of March. This type of fishing involves using certain flies, which are made to mimic food of a specific type of fish. Fishermen or women in France who want to catch the fish are also restricted to certain times of the year. In France, the fish is a popular dish for its light texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a grayling?

A grayling is a species of freshwater fish belonging to the salmon family Salmonidae. It is characterized by its distinctive dorsal fin, which is large and sail-like, and its preference for cold, clear, oxygen-rich waters. Graylings are known for their beautiful coloring, which can include shades of silver, blue, and purple.

Where can graylings be found in the wild?

Graylings are native to the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. They inhabit clean, cold freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes. In Europe, they are found from the United Kingdom across to Russia, while in North America, they are located in Alaska and parts of Canada. Their range extends into Asia as well.

What do graylings typically eat?

Graylings primarily feed on invertebrates, including insects, larvae, and crustaceans. They are surface feeders and are particularly known for their habit of leaping out of the water to catch flying insects. Their diet can also include smaller fish, depending on the availability of food sources in their habitat.

Are graylings important to their ecosystems?

Yes, graylings play a significant role in their ecosystems. As both predators and prey, they help maintain the balance of aquatic life. They are a key species for recreational fishing, which can have economic importance, and their presence is often an indicator of water quality, as they require pristine conditions to thrive.

How do graylings reproduce?

Graylings spawn in the spring, with timing dependent on water temperature. They prefer shallow areas with gravelly or sandy bottoms for laying their eggs. Females release thousands of eggs that are externally fertilized by males. The eggs then develop over a few weeks, with fry emerging to continue the life cycle.

Are grayling populations at risk?

Grayling populations are facing threats from habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Overfishing and competition from introduced species also pose risks. Conservation efforts are in place in various regions to protect and restore grayling habitats, ensuring the sustainability of these fish for future generations.

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