American Grayling ( Thymallus arcticus )

American Grayling ( Thymallus arcticus )
American Grayling
Thymallus arcticus.

The American Grayling's is a small fresh water fish of the salmon family and genus Thymallus, common in northern streams and distinguished by its dorsal fin which is disproportionately large in ratio to its body size. The dorsal fin contains between 13 to 23 rays.

The appearance of the fish is often in dispute from various sources, depending on factors which are influenced by its diet and food supply including lighting at a given time. The Grayling has a small mouth with few teeth, and feeds on insects. Some have stated its coloring is lavender while others might say its green, others claim it is gold, bronze or silver in coloration. Some sources claim the Graying has the appearance of a Rocky Mountain whitefish and half trout, which is fairly accurate due to its whitefish body and trout head and mouth. However, the Graying's overall coloration is what makes it memorable.

Primarily the distinguishing features are silvery with a limited number of black spots speckling its sides, mostly on the forward half of the body. Except for the spotted dorsal fin which is distinctively colored, all the fins are usually dark. Like some fish with silvery coloration, they reflect the colors that are nearby.

Graylings rarely get very large. However in the Canadian Northwest, some American Graylings reach up to 1.5 to 3 pounds as a general estimate. The male grows larger than females. The male's dorsal fin is larger than the female, it is small and rounded in the front and rises to a peak toward the end of the fin. The dorsal fin of the female begins tall and tapers off.

Graylings are commonly found in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Some other states have transplanted this species, but populations are limited.

Europeans are more familiar with the European Grayling which is widely distributed in the frigid lakes and streams, and often considered to be more the sporting fish, than the American counterpart, as it is a highly esteemed fish in European waters located in the Alpine regions of France, Germany, Austria and Italy. Both American and European Graylings share the same family, but are entirely different species. Two fish that are referred to at times, the Montana Grayling (Thymallus montanus) and Michigan Grayling (Thymallus tricolor) are likely sub-species of the American Grayling. The only populations native to the lower 48 states were in Michigan and Montana, and the Michigan population is now extinct. Another North American species is the Alaska Grayling (Thymallus signifer) found in Alaska and Canada.

KingdomAnimalia – Animal
Phylum- Chordata
SubphylumVertebrata – vertebrates
SuperclassOsteichthyes – bony fishes
ClassActinopterygii – ray-finned fishes, spiny rayed fishes
SubclassNeopterygii – neopterygians
OrderSalmoniformes – salmons
FamilySalmonidae – salmonids, trouts and salmons
GenusThymallus (Linck, 1790 – graylings)
SpeciesThymallus arcticus (Pallas, 1776), Arctic grayling, ombre arctique
Direct Children:
SubspeciesThymallus arcticus arcticus (Pallas, 1776)
SubspeciesThymallus arcticus baicalensis (Dybowski, 1874)–baikal graying
SubspeciesThymallus arcticus pallasi (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1848) –east siberian grayling


  • Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia, ©1950
  • The American Peoples Encyclopedia, ©1960
  • Arctic Grayling - Thymallus arcticus
  • A Field Guide to Fly Fishing by Dennis Bitton
  • Thymallus arcticus, (Pallas, 1776) Taxonomic Serial No.: 162016

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