Game Fishing > Grayling Familiy, Thymallidae > Michigan grayling

Michigan grayling

Michigan graylingThe Michigan grayling was first described by Professor E.D. Cope, in 1865, from specimens from the Au Sable River. He named it tricolor, on account of its handsomely-decorated fins and body. At that time it was abundant in the Au Sable, Manistee, Marquette, Jordan, Pigeon, and other rivers in the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan, and in Otter Creek, near Keweenah, in the upper peninsula.

It has a somewhat larger head than the Arctic form, its length being about one-fifth of the length of the body; the outline of the latter does not differ except in not being so prominent over the shoulder.

The coloration is purplish gray with silvery reflections, darker on the back, belly white and iridescent; sides of head with bright bluish and bronze lustre; sides of the body with small, black, irregular spots; ventral fins with oblique, rose-colored lines; dorsal with alternate dusky and rose-colored lines below, and alternate rows of dusky green and roseate spots above; caudal fin dusky with a middle roseate stripe.

I visited most of the grayling streams in Michigan, and found it abundant, affording fine fishing. At that time it was also in the Boyne, and in Pine Lake and River. I also took it in Lake Michigan while fishing for cisco from the pier at Charlevoix. Fish running from a pound to a pound and a half were common, and occasionally one of two pounds was taken. It is sad to contemplate the gradual disappearance of this fish from the once densely populated streams of Michigan. At the present day the angler is fortunate, indeed, who succeeds in taking a brace of grayling where years ago his basket was soon filled.

A stream or pond will support but a limited number of fish, the number depending on the supply of natural food for both young and mature. By the supply of food on one hand, and the natural enemies of the fish on the other, a certain balance is maintained which if disturbed by, say, overfishing one season, will be restored by natural laws the next. And this state of affairs will continue so long as the natural conditions of the waters remain undisturbed. By cutting down the pine trees at the sources of the streams and along the small tributaries, which are the spawning grounds of both trout and grayling, the natural conditions are changed.

The scorching rays of the summer sun are admitted where once mosses and ferns and the trailing arbutus luxuriated in the shade of a dense growth of pines and hemlocks and firs. The soil becomes dry, the carpet of green shrivels and dies, and the myriads of insects that once bred and multiplied in the cool and grateful shade, and whose larvae furnish the food for the baby fish, disappear. The brooks and rivulets diminish and vanish. A page has been torn from the book of nature, and the place that trout and grayling knew so well is known no more forever.