Return of the Grayling to Michigan?


Michigan Grayling, photo courtesy Old Au Sable Fly Shop

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is partnering with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to bring back the Arctic grayling. Grayling were native to Michigan but are long vanished from our waters. Slate blue in color with a sail-like dorsal fin, they are of the salmon family and efforts will begin in the Manistee River watershed.

Regarding the grayling, the Old Au Sable Fly shop says in part:

According to William J. Mantague, “One spring the Grayling were running up the Hersey. We noted they had some difficulty passing an obstruction in the stream, so we placed a canoe crosswise at that point and caught over seven hundred one afternoon.”

The Grayling were eaten. They were packed in ice, loaded onto railway cars, and shipped by the thousands of tons per year to the larger metropolitan areas. In some instances, they were tossed on the banks and buried in mounds.

At the same time, the lumbermen came and cut down centuries-old growth of virgin white pine. The land leading to the rivers was stripped as well, slashed and burned, and the logs floated downstream to the large mills and cities during the spring run-off. The rivers were cleared of logs and debris, places were the Grayling flourished. Shallow riffles were trenched out and deepened, and dams were built so that the flow of the river could be better controlled. Vegetation on the banks of the rivers was cleared as well, and the river slowly filled with sand. The sand filled the deepest pools and covered the Grayling’s spawning beds. By 1885, the Grayling had disappeared from the AuSable River. And in a period of ten to twenty years, a land unrivaled for its fishing and beauty, became a barren wasteland of stumps and empty pools.

More about graylings at the Old Au Sable Fly Shop where you can pick up gear and learn about fish & fishing on Michigan’s most storied fishing river.

More fish & fishing on Michigan in Pictures!

4 thoughts on “Return of the Grayling to Michigan?

    1. Me too. I heard the other day that the Grand Traverse Band has stocked what is apparently a thriving population of the coaster brook trout in Grand Traverse Bay off Peshawbestown. Working on getting the story!

      Here’s a bit about the coaster from a 2009 article by my friend Jeff Smith in Traverse Magazine. It’s a great look at efforts to bring back one of the Great Lakes’ legendary sport fish:

      The coaster breeds nowhere in the United States beyond two locations in the Lake Superior watershed, specifically, in a small tributary near Big Bay called the Salmon Trout River, and about 120 miles northwest of there in streams and on shoals of Isle Royale. Those estimated 400 adults are all the breeders our nation has.

      …What exactly is the coaster? Even in our genome-mapping age, this is not an easy question to answer, but the answer is central to the endangered species decision. Ever since Europeans first learned of coasters, people have figured the fish were simply large brook trout (or, as Canadians call them, speckled trout), fish that swam out to Lake Superior by chance or choice and grew much larger there because of the larger environment. Many fish species vary in size based on environment, and coasters present a dramatic illustration of that trait. For example, a nice brook trout might measure 14 inches and weigh a pound. But the world record coaster, caught near Thunder Bay, Ontario, back in 1915, measured 34.5 inches and weighed 14.5 pounds—1,400 percent heavier than a decent stream brook trout.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m heading to the UP (Pictured Rocks) to fish/hike and while checking the regs for the park’s streams noticed that several of the UP’s rivers (western UP if I remember correctly) have restrictive brook trout regs to facilitate the return of a coaster populations (1 fish must be greater than 18 inches).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s