How to Catch an Arctic Grayling

Dull at first glance but stunning once in your hands, the Arctic Grayling is a jewel of the northern waters. Finding the Arctic Grayling on your table can be quite the reward of hours of research and preparation as they are incredible table fair – though most are returned to the water. Enter into the Arctic arena and start your hunt for the beautiful Arctic Grayling, both native to the polar north of Alaska and the backyard rivers of northern North America. A tough find, but a fun catch.

Where to Find an Arctic Grayling

As you can safely assume with their names, the Arctic Grayling prefers to locate itself within colder waters. The best places to search for the Arctic Grayling would be in the cold rivers and lakes in northern sections of Russia, Alaska, and Canada. The freezing temperatures in the winter and the temperate feel of summer/spring makes these locations ideal for Arctic Grayling habitats. Northern states in the United States also support the Arctic Grayling.

They are a freshwater fish that needs cold, clean, and clear water to survive. Finding the Arctic Grayling is all about locating a source of clear freshwater that is large enough for the species to thrive in. They tend to stick to rivers and large ponds as these are relatively calm, cool, and clean enough to support their growth and breeding. Locating a suitable habitat that can support a school of Arctic Graylings isn’t too difficult if you know what to look for and when to look.

In the summer and late spring, your best bet is to stick to the shallow waters of streams and pools in rivers. The Arctic Grayling tends to breed and develop in these more shallow waters as it enables them to grow without much competition. Once the weather turns cold, it’s time for them to move on to deeper waters. During the fall and winter, the Arctic Grayling will move to a new habitat in the deep parts of rivers and lakes. They can range in size from 10-16 inches, even 30 inches in rare cases.

The Fish and Aquatic Conservation discusses more about the history, conservation and migration behavior of the Atlantic Grayling.

How to Catch an Arctic Grayling

Persistence is key for the Arctic Grayling as chances are, you might not catch them the first time. The main difficulty of fishing for an Arctic Grayling is knowing where to go to locate them. As you can infer with the change of habitat with the change of seasons, you’ll need to make note of how late in their growth process they are and how cold it is. The colder the temperature, the deeper the waters they’re living in. Find shallow, slow moving pools in the summer and salmon in the winter.

Why find salmon in the winter? Graylings tend to salvage the leftovers of the spawning salmon and can often be found underneath their spawning locations attempting to eat the eggs. If you locate a spawning salmon spot, chances are there is an Arctic Grayling just below. Once you’ve found the Arctic Grayling, it’s time to catch it – easier said than done. Many similar fish are easier to catch as they fully engulf their prey (your bait) with their mouths. Arctic Graylings are a little more cautious.

The Arctic Grayling prefers to nip at the prey on the surface hoping to either disable it so it can’t fly away or to bring it down without much danger. This presents a slight issue to the angler attempting to catch it as it is less likely to get caught on your hook, and could easily run away with your bait. Luckily for you, this nip and run tactic has made it so the Arctic Grayling comes back for multiple attempts which mean you have more than one chance to catch the fish.

Best Bait for Arctic Grayling

Arctic Graylings tend to prefer easy to catch insects that lay on the surface or fly low above the water. They will swim up to the top and snag any unsuspecting bugs that are within their reach. This is perfect for any anglers looking to pull them in as you won’t have to dive too deep to locate an Arctic Grayling – chances are they’ll come to you. Using insects like flies or other local bugs is always a great tactic to bring in the fish. Come with many as they might be easier to take away without getting caught on your hook.

As the Arctic Grayling develops and gets older, they might be more keen on going for small fish – they certainly hold the size advantage over many. If you’re fishing in the winter in deeper waters, small local fish might be the better choice of bait as you’ll be facing larger, more developed Arctic Graylings. The best choice of fish to use to lure in these fish might be ones local to the region you’re fishing in. Salmon eggs are another great choice of bait for the Arctic Grayling.

Best Line & Tackle for Arctic Grayling

The most important part of your setup if your line. It’s pivotal to remember that the Arctic Grayling has a relatively soft mouth and a braided line can easily compromise their mouth and pull the hooks resulting in a failed catch. By using a monofilament line, you’re preventing this unnecessary tug and keeping your hook stationary in their mouth. The hook shouldn’t be too large either as they have small mouths and won’t be able to fit the bait and a large hook.

Though they tend to put up quite a fight above water, you won’t need too strong of a line. Most Arctic Graylings can be easily brought in with any line rated at 5 lbs or more. Even a 10-lb might be too much for the Grayling as we’ve settled on a happy medium in 7 lbs for even the strongest Arctic Grayling. These fish are perfect finds for fly fishers and most average rods will be great to bring in this species. Fishing for the Arctic Grayling doesn’t have to be difficult or elusive! 

You may also enjoy, How to Catch a Sheefish.


The founder of Catch and Fillet, “Chum Charlie”, has been writing articles within the fishing community for over 9 years. He got his nickname due to his preference for chumming while he is fishing. Chumming is a common practice that is used in the ocean to lure various types of fish to the boat. Chum can consist of various fish parts that attract fish due to its overbearing odor.

Leave a Comment

Looking For

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive our tips & advice in your inbox