Grayling is one of the most sought-after game fish found in the northern hemisphere, and with good reason. This species of fish is beautiful, feisty, and a forgiving target for beginners since it shoals and tends to strike anything that hits the top of the water.
So what are the best places to catch grayling? Grayling can be caught in the following places:
- Hudson Bay, Canada
- Alaska Fisheries
- Ural Mountains, Siberia
- Upper Missouri River Drainage, Montana
- Lee Valley Reservoir and White Mountain Lakes, Arizona
- Toppings Lake, Teton Range
- Uinta Mountains, Utah
- Boulder Mountain Chain, Central Idaho
Grayling have a wide range of both natural and introduced habitats, so this migratory fish can be found in a wide variety of places. Read on to find out more about the best places to catch grayling.
Hudson Bay, Canada
The untamed wilds of Canada are one of the most thrilling places in the world for a fishing trip, and Hudson Bay is known as the world’s second-largest inland sea. Hudson Bay is also one of the most popular places in North America for fishing grayling since it is one of the grayling’s natural habitats.
One of the best options for fishing grayling in Hudson Bay is to book a private charter with a local fishing boat. Not only will a local captain know the waters well, but a private charter, like Hudson Bay Charters, will also allow you to fish without putting yourself shoulder to shoulder with twenty other people.
Because Hudson Bay is shallow and freezes completely over each winter, this inland sea is a perfect place to do some ice fishing for Arctic grayling. For those who are willing to bundle up, winter can be one of the best seasons to score some grayling and enjoy the frigid Canadian wilderness. This frontier coastline is not heavily populated, so those who choose to do their grayling fishing can enjoy the quiet.
Those who decide to go fishing for grayling at Hudson Bay during the winter should be aware that this area is the winter hunting ground of Manitoba’s polar bear population. Along with the polar bears found in the winter, anglers fishing Hudson Bay for grayling in the summer may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the bay’s 50,000 beluga whales as they move south into the river estuaries to breed.
Alaska is one of the best places to fish for grayling since it can be found throughout the state in all of its lakes and river systems. While you can cast a line into most bodies of water in Alaska and have a chance to catch grayling, there are some waterways in the state where the grayling fishing is more productive than others.
Here are some of the fisheries in Alaska where grayling can be freely found:
- Willow Creek Confluence: This fishery is located approximately sixty miles north of Anchorage and is a popular spot for fishing trout, salmon, and Arctic grayling. Compared to some of Alaska’s fisheries, Willow Creek has fairly easy access points, and the water is very clear, which facilitates sight fishing with surface lures and flies.
- Quartz Creek Compound: The campground at Quartz Creek is only open during peak season from May through July, but individual camping grounds can be secured during other times of the year. This waterway located near Kenai Lake is the perfect place to find tributary-based grayling. Quartz Creek is located in Chugach National Forest and is a good place to find moose, bears, and wolves, as well as a variety of freshwater game fish.
- Blackstone River Pullout: If you’re looking for a smaller waterway to do some fly fishing, Blackstone River Pullout is a good place to find both Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden, a bright rosy-red subspecies of char salmon.
- Olnes Pond Access: This pondside access point is an open, grassy area that is perfect for camping, and visitors can also find plentiful blueberry and cranberry bushes located nearby on the pond’s borders. This sixteen-acre pond is stocked not only with Arctic grayling but also with rainbow trout. This fishing spot includes twelve campsites located off Elliot Highway.
- Dick Lake: Dick Lake is only thirty-two feet at its greatest depth, which makes it a good choice for surface hunters like trout and grayling. Due to its remote nature, those anglers who make a point to trek out to Dick Lake are likely to get the area to themselves. Dick Lake is a good choice to fish for Arctic grayling as well as Arctic char, coho salmon, and burbot.
- Haggard Creek: This high-elevation area flows south down into Sourdough Creek and is named for a roadhouse that used to be located near the stream’s mouth. Haggard Creek is considered a controlled use area by Alaska Fish and Game, so be aware of where you can and cannot use motorized vehicles in this area for the transportation of gear and game.
- Octopus Lake: Octopus Lake is located in the Amphitheater Mountains a little over eight miles southwest of Summit Lake Lodge, which is arguably one of the most popular hunting and fishing lodges in this part of Alaska. Because the lake is so close to a major lodge, this grayling fishing spot offers both a remote location and easy access to luxury amenities like fine dining.
- Gillespie Creek: Gillespie Creek is a tributary creek near the Gulkana River in Alaska and flows into the Spring Creek about seventeen miles south of Copper Basin. Like many small Alaskan fisheries that are in the bush, access to Gillespie Creek is remote, so those who intend to fish it should also intend to camp.
- Clearwater Creek: Clearwater Creek is located near Denali Highway, and the Clearwater Creek Wayside provides trailhead access for motorized tourists using the Denali Highway. At this campsite restrooms, fire pits, and picnic tables are provided.
Ural Mountains, Siberia
The Ural Mountains (also known as simply “the Urals”) are a mountain range that stretches across western Russia from the coast of the Arctic Sea all the way to northwestern Kazakhstan and the Ural River. The waterways of the Ural Mountains are one of the areas where Arctic grayling can naturally be found to range as they make their way from the Arctic Sea up the estuaries of the Urals.
The mountain rivers of the Urals feature some of the best freshwater fishing in the world, and there are several subspecies of grayling that can be caught there, including the European grayling and the Siberian grayling. Though these remote waterways can be difficult to access, gaining access to them often means the fishing trip of a lifetime.
Grayling can be fished in the Urals from either stationary campsites or raft fishing tours that follow the shoals to optimize your catch. These uninhabited areas of the Siberian wilderness mean that you can fish completely undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Upper Missouri River Drainage, Montana
Other than Alaska, Montana is one of the few American states where Arctic grayling can be naturally found and don’t have to be artificially stocked. While the Montana population of the Arctic grayling was briefly considered for inclusion on the Endangered Species List, its consideration was withdrawn in 2007 following an investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that determined it existed in safe numbers.
Montana is well known for its beautiful fly-fishing locations, and the Upper Missouri River drainage is no different. Whether you want to go grayling fishing on a sprawling private ranch near one of Montana’s many small waterways connecting to the Missouri River or you’d rather take a horseback trek into the wilds, Montana has a little something for every fisherman.
A major benefit of fishing in Montana is that because it’s such a popular game fishing location, there are plenty of different packages available. Guided fishing tours are the best option for fishing Montana grayling, as local guides often know the best areas to find the grayling when they shoal. Because grayling shoal, if your guide can locate one, there’s almost certain to be more where that came from.
Lee Valley Reservoir and White Mountain Lakes, Arizona
Though grayling do not naturally occur in an Arizona range, these fish can be found stocked in various waterways throughout the White Mountain Lakes and in the Lee Valley Reservoir, also known as Lee Valley Lake. It’s important to note that Lee Valley Reservoir cannot be fished with bait, only artificial lures, so come with your fishing flies at the ready.
The trails to Lee Valley Lake often become impassible during the winter months, so any fishing done in this area is recommended for April through early autumn. This lake holds the Arizona state record for largest-sized Artic grayling, so it’s definitely a good spot for grayling fishing.
Because this lake has poor levels of dissolved oxygen under the ice during the winter as well as accessibility problems, Lee Valley Reservoir is not a good choice for winter fishing. But once things have warmed up in the spring, all bets are off.
Here are some of the other waterways in the White Mountain Lakes that are good spots to look for stocked Arctic grayling as well as other mountain river fish like cutthroat trout:
While Arctic grayling are not native to the Arizona mountainous region, these habitats are well-suited to grayling, and stocked grayling tend to do well in these wildlife management areas.
Toppings Lakes, Teton Range, Wyoming
Toppings Lakes is an area less than half an hour from Jackson, Wyoming, which puts it close to necessary supplies, but doesn’t take away from the wild, remote nature of this fishing spot. With many areas reachable only by snowmobile during certain times of the year, however, those planning on hunting Arctic grayling at Toppings Lakes should come prepared to rough it.
Those who camp on popular Spencer’s Mountain behind the Triangle X Ranch are facing a two-mile hike to Toppings Lakes for fishing, but the fishing you’ll get is well worth the trip. Not only is the fishing excellent here, but you can also be treated to some of the best views of the Teton mountain range in all of Wyoming.
Along with all the great grayling fishing you can find in Grand Teton Park, there is also a dazzling array of other wildlife to see, and some of the most beautiful wilderness vistas in the entire world. For those who have to do a bit of strenuous hiking to get their grayling spot, a summer dip in the smooth mirror surface of a Wyoming mountain lake can be just the panacea they’re looking for. Just be careful not to scare away the fish!
Uinta Mountains, Utah
Those who would prefer to go after grayling in the summer versus the autumn or winter should try their luck in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. This mountain range is known as one of the most popular fly-fishing destinations in North America and with good reason. Anglers can find it stocked not only Artic grayling, but also various types of trout and whitefish.
Because the Mirror Lake Highway Corridor in this area offers a wide variety of different fishing spots, it makes it very easy for anglers to pack up and move downstream if they hit a spot that doesn’t do well. All of these waterways are connected and close together, so it takes almost no effort to pack up and try another location if the first one isn’t working. This lends to the fisherman’s versatility in the field and usually increases overall fishing success as well.
While grayling is found most often in the lakes of the Uinta Mountains, fishermen can also go after a variety of trout in its smaller waterways too. The higher elevation of these lakes means that there’s less fishing pressure as well, which leads to a more secluded and satisfying experience.
Boulder Mountain Chain and Boulder Lake, Central Idaho
While you might not think central Idaho when you think Arctic grayling, you’d be wrong. These mountain waterways are part of the Rocky Mountain range and are stocked with Arctic grayling, but also contain a variety of other alpine fish such as cutthroat and rainbow trout. This isn’t a good fishing spot for those who are looking for a secluded visit since the trails around Boulder Lake have heavy traffic from tourists.
Along with traditional fly-fishing targets, anglers who fish this selection of lakes and waterways can also catch less common prizes like tiger muskie, salmon, and even sturgeon, though these are marked as catch-and-release due to their relative rarity. The waters of Boulder Lake and its feeding tributaries are open year-round, which makes this a good location for fishing in either the warmer or cooler months.
Those who plan to visit the Boulder Mountain Chain can stay in several nice campgrounds, including the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. This scenic swathe of mountainous terrain contains over seven hundred miles of trail and over three hundred highland lakes, so chances are you’ll be able to find a body of water with some good fishing in it.
Because Boulder Lake is a manmade reservoir, it is stocked often with compatible game fish, making it one of the most likely places in central Idaho for you to find Artic grayling without having to go anywhere near the Arctic circle. Those who decide to hike in should know that there are often fallen trees and other debris, however, since the trails can be quite remote.
The Place You Won’t Find Grayling: Michigan
For those who are looking for Arctic grayling in Michigan’s lakes and waterways, you’re out of luck. Unfortunately, the wild Arctic grayling population of Michigan has been declared extinct due to habitat loss, so you won’t find any naturally occurring grayling in that region if you’re fishing. In fact, there have been no recorded grayling in the Michigan waterways for over a century.
While there have been attempts by conservationists to re-introduce the Arctic grayling to Michigan, reproductive problems and predation issues from more aggressive fish like trout have killed any attempts to stock the fish back in the more than twenty rivers and lakes that the fish used to inhabit within the state.
For more information on the decline of the wild Arctic grayling in Michigan, check out this article at MyNorth, “What Will It Take for Michigan’s Wild Arctic Grayling to Return Home?”
Grayling Are One of the World’s Most Beautiful Game Fish
Despite having a somewhat scattered range across North America and being notoriously difficult to locate as a migratory fish in remote, highland areas, grayling is one of the most beautiful game fish that fishermen go after from the mountains of North America to the tundra of Siberia.
Due to its telltale feisty corkscrewing fight on the line, its propensity to strike at just about any fly you toss it, and its unparalleled beauty no matter where you catch it, the grayling will hopefully continue to be a treasure of the fly fishing scene for decades to come.