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Arctic Grayling Feeding


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After looking at a lot of pictures of grayling, I can see why some people think they might be a bit of a bottom fish. The bigger fish kind of have shoulders, and combined with their small mouths it gives them a bit of a downturned look.


This local fish, photographed by Ken Monk, has a terminal mouth. If anyone was wondering, "Fishes with a terminal mouth have upper and lower jaws meeting at the tip of their snout. By contrast, when the upper and lower jaw meet behind the snout, the fish has a subterminal mouth. A mouth that is either terminal or subterminal can also be oblique, meaning that when looked at in a side view, the mouth angles down from the snout rather than extending horizontally. Fishes that feed on organisms found on the bottom of water bodies sometimes have a fleshy, ventral mouth." This was taken from page 11 of "Fish of Alberta", a book written by a good friend of the club, Dr. Michael G. Sullivan, along with Amanda Joynt. It's available through Lone Pine Publishing. Maybe it's more of a field guide than a book.

Also from page 116 of the same book, on the feeding habits of Arctic Grayling in Alberta, "Opportunistic; picks terrestrial insects, such as beetles, ants, wasps and grasshoppers, from the water's surface (often more than half the diet)". This is before they eat any adult aquatic insects. Also I found this report very illuminating, though it's not quite as local-


From the report- "Grayling are visual feeders that prey primarily at the surface and at midwater depths, often on drift ... Grayling appear to be sight feeders and to feed mostly during the day ... Their reactive distance is greater than other fish species and increases dramatically at light intensities higher than 100 lux."

Behavioural Drift of nymphs occurs primarily along the bottom, in low light. It would appear this is not where our Arctic Grayling are getting very much of their food.

Vince, thanks for your comment about fishing for grayling with buddies using dries, nymphs, and switching. If you all catch about the same, that would seem to support the 50% surface feeding. And a trout at 10% is supported, since a good nympher can outfish a dry fly guy anyday, or so the nymphers keep telling me. Right, Dennis?

Gary, the reason most people only think of grayling in the fall is because that's when they school up in their overwintering holes. It's a bit of a "Duffer's Fortnight". I'm sure I'm not the only one who has come across a shoal of rising grayling in October. I can't always tell what they're rising to, and it usually doesn't matter since they're still willing to take my foam beetle. It's my understanding that during the winter, they hardly eat at all.

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