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The Arctic Grayling: Freshwater Fish of the Northern Wilderness

With its ability to prepare itself for long, cold winters by consuming huge quantities of aquatic insects, snails, small fish and fish eggs, and to survive for up to 8 months under several metres of ice, the arctic grayling is well adapted to the lakes and rivers of northern Canada. In the Northwest Territories, the grayling is common in the Mackenzie, Coppermine, Anderson, Thelon and Back River drainages; in Great Slave Lake, it is likely to be found along shorelines and in shallower bays.

Sometimes known as a “sailfish,” because of its very large, brightly-spotted dorsal fin, the arctic grayling is one of the most distinctive and attractive fish in northern waters. It is vividly-coloured, with an iridescent dark purplish-blue back, and purplish-grey sides.

The grayling grows to trophy size in the cold, clear waters of Great Slave Lake, reaching record weights of over 2 kilograms, and super-lengths of 60 centimetres. Close study of the arctic grayling’s habits has revealed that large grayling gravitate to deeper waters, with smaller fish inhabiting medium depths. While sport fishers are delighted to find that grayling will rise to almost any kind of bait, lure, or fly, smaller fish are more likely to leap toward a food source; larger grayling may wait for food to come to them.

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