If earlier grayling was actively caught, then from the middle of the last century, due to the decline in their population, many countries began to impose restrictions. Grayling likes to settle in fast and cool water, because most of them in Russia, and mostly they are found in small rivers. They are caught all year round, best when fattening after winter.
Origin of the species and description
Protobes appeared on Earth extremely long ago – more than half a billion years ago, ray-finned ones, which include graylings, 420 million years ago. But those fish still almost did not look like modern ones, and the first fish that can be attributed to the close ancestors of grayling appeared at the beginning of the Cretaceous period – these are the first representatives of the herring order.
It was from them that, by the middle of the same period, salmon-like ones appeared, and graylings already belong to them. Although the time of appearance has so far been established only theoretically (however, it has been confirmed by genetic studies) because the oldest finds of fish from this order are about 55 million years old, that is, they already belong to the Eocene period.
At that time, the species diversity among salmonids was low; for several decades, their fossils completely disappear. Then came the time of climatic changes, due to which the speciation of salmonids intensified – this happened 15-30 million years ago. Then modern species begin to appear.
Now three subfamilies are distinguished among salmonids, including graylings. Their separation happened just in the period of active speciation, after which the graylings already evolved separately. Somewhat later, modern grayling appeared, the exact time has not been established. It was described in 1829 by J.L. de Cuvier, was named Thymallus in Latin.
Appearance and Features
The size and weight of the grayling depends on its type. So, the European is one of the largest, it grows up to 40-50 cm, some individuals even up to 60. Weight can reach 3-4 kg, or even 6-6.7 kg. However, usually it is still somewhat smaller, and even fish aged 7-10 years most often does not exceed 2.5 kg.
First of all, when looking at this fish, attention is attracted by its large dorsal fin, which can stretch all the way to the tail of males. Thanks to this fin, it is very difficult to confuse a grayling with another fish. Interestingly, if in females it either remains the same height throughout, or becomes slightly lower towards the tail, then in males its height increases markedly. The tail is usually decorated with spots or stripes: the spots are reddish, can be both small and rather large, round or indefinite in shape. The stripes come in different colors, usually dark, lilac or blue. Representatives of the European species are paler than others and less spotted.
Grayling is considered a beautiful fish. The color of the body can vary greatly: there are gray individuals with a greenish tint, or with blue, brown, lilac, very spotty. During the spawning period, the color of the fish becomes more saturated. What color a fish acquires is determined not only by genes, but also by the body of water in which it lives. This is most noticeable in the example of the Siberian species: individuals living in large rivers have a lighter color, while those that prefer small rivers to them are much darker.
The growth rate of fish depends on how much food is around it, especially it grows quickly in large rivers in a temperate climate, gaining 2-3 kg, or even more, by the eighth or tenth year of life. In high latitudes, they do not grow so well, and catching a grayling weighing 1.5 kg is already a great success, more often they are noticeably smaller. The size of the grayling also depends on a number of other factors. For example, on how much light it receives, what is the temperature of the water and its oxygen saturation, and from some others. If the living conditions are bad, graylings can even weigh 500-700 grams by the age of 7-8 years.
An interesting fact: Dwarf graylings are found in Siberian mountain lakes, they remain the same color as the fry – both their own and other species until the end of their lives. They are very bright and have dark stripes on the sides.
Where does grayling live?
The European grayling can be found in many rivers throughout Europe, even though its population has declined significantly and some of the rivers where it used to live are no longer present. The western border of its distribution is in France, and the eastern border in the Urals.
The range of the Mongolian species is small, it lives only in lakes in Mongolia and not far from its border in Russia. Siberian grayling lives to the north of it and to the east of the European one. The range of several of its subspecies extends to almost the entire Asian part of Russia.
Thus, this fish is widespread in the northern part of Eurasia, inhabiting almost the entire temperate zone, and is found even beyond the Arctic Circle. There are also American graylings (a subspecies of Siberian ones): they are found in North America, as well as in rivers near the easternmost tip of Eurasia.
This fish can live both in flat and mountain rivers, although it prefers the latter, it is often found even in large streams – the main thing is that clean and cool water flows into them. And it flowed faster: graylings love oxygen-rich water and often settle near rifts.
They do not like warm water, therefore they can be found much less often in lakes – but they are also found in them. They can live at altitudes up to 2,300 m; they are able to live not only in clean fresh water, but also in brackish water: they are caught in the deltas of large Siberian rivers, but they stay near the surface, where the water is closer to fresh water.
Now you know where the grayling is found. Let's see what this fish eats.
What do graylings eat?
The diet of graylings is similar to other salmon living in rivers.
- insects and their larvae;
- fish and fry;
If caddisflies live in a reservoir, then the grayling most actively leans on them: they can make up three-quarters of its menu. In general, this fish can be called omnivorous, it is difficult to find non-poisonous and rather small living creatures that it would refuse to eat.
Graylings are able to feed on the smallest crustaceans, and they are eaten by both their fry and large individuals, and by fish a little smaller than themselves. These are really dangerous predators, in the neighborhood with which any fish should be less alert, but it is better to immediately swim away – the grayling can attack quite unexpectedly. and during migrations they often do so. Therefore, these fish can also be caught with a mouse: they peck at rodents very well.
An interesting fact: Like other salmonids, they migrate – in the spring they go upstream, sometimes they swim into the tributaries, where they fatten up and spawn, and in the fall they roll down. The difference is that during such migrations, graylings do not cover significant distances: usually they swim no more than a few tens of kilometers.
Features of character and lifestyle
They prefer to live alone, and what is most atypical is that almost all fish at least initially stay in flocks , then even young graylings already settle one by one. Still, there are exceptions: sometimes these fish are brought together in groups consisting of 6-12 individuals, but this happens only in cases where there are not enough good places for everyone at the riffles.
Therefore, in rivers densely populated with grayling, such flocks can reach several tens or even hundreds of individuals: this is usually observed, for example, in Vishera. However, even if graylings have to live in a group, no special relationships are established within it, they just live close to each other. They hunt in the evenings and in the morning, they love just such a time of the day when there is no hot sun, but not too dark. The same time is considered the best for fishing, especially in the evening, as the fish rise to the surface to feed on insects flying to the water at dusk.
By the end of spring, they swim to spawn, and young individuals rise up the river immediately to feed. After spawning, everyone begins to actively fatten fat, so it’s a great time for grayling fishing, and it continues until mid-autumn: in recent months, the fish is especially tasty, ready for wintering. When the autumn cold begins, she makes her way back, rolling down to the lower reaches, where she hibernates. In cold weather, it moves little, but continues to feed, so that it can be caught in winter. This fish is cautious, it has good eyesight and reaction, so it is not easy to catch it.
But there is a plus in this: you don’t have to stay in one place for a long time and wait for a reaction. If there are graylings nearby, they will see the prey well and, if nothing bothers them, the bite should follow quickly. If it is not, then either there is no fish, or something did not like it. Graylings are observant, therefore, when using artificial baits, be sure to put those that imitate insects flying at this time of the year and at these hours, or fry living nearby. Otherwise, you can’t count on the success of fishing, suspicious fish simply won’t take the bait.
You can meet graylings most often in the following places:
- near rifts and rapids;
- on shallows;
- near natural barriers;
- on a bottom rich in pits;
- on a rapid near the main jet.
The most preferred for them are rifts with a rapid current, because the water there is the coolest and cleanest. In deep creeks in warm weather, this fish is not worth looking for, except in winter. In small ponds, graylings are found near the shore, in large ones they swim up to it only during hunting.
There must be shelters near the grayling camp: these can be snags or stones on the river bottom, plants and the like. But a stretch is needed near the shelter: a well-visible space where the grayling will look for prey.
Social structure and reproduction
Except during the spawning period, no communication between the fish occurs, they live and hunt separately. Females become sexually mature by the age of two, and males only by three years.
The fish goes to spawn when the water warms up to at least 7-8 degrees in the north and up to 9-11 in the south. This usually happens by the end of April or by May in the southern latitudes, and only in June in the northern ones. Spawning occurs in shallow water: the depth should be within 30-70 cm, while the fish tries to find a sandy bottom.
The female spawns not so much in comparison with other fish: in the range from 3 to 35 thousand eggs. Considering what a small percentage of them survive, graylings do not breed very efficiently, so their catch should be strictly controlled.
According to researchers, a large dorsal fin of a male is needed not only to attract the attention of females, although it also has this function also performs: also with its help, the fish creates a stream of water, thanks to which the current does not carry milk away for a longer time and more eggs are fertilized.
When the female finishes spawning, the eggs sink to the bottom, and the male sprinkles her with sand, under which she, if she is lucky, remains for the next 15-20 days. Such shelter gives more reason to hope that no one will touch her during this time than if she swims freely, but even so, often other fish still find and eat her.
Natural enemies of graylings
Gyling is a fish large, and therefore there are no predators in the rivers that would hunt for him systematically, however, he may be in danger from other large predators. First of all, these are pike and taimen – these fish can easily get rid of even an adult grayling and eat it.
In reservoirs where there are none, graylings themselves become the top of the food chain, and only predators living outside the water can threaten them. First of all, this is a person, because graylings are highly valued, and they are actively fished in the area where it is allowed – and where it is forbidden, there are also enough poachers.
People are the most dangerous for grayling, the largest number of adult fish suffers because of them. But it is also hunted by birds, for example, dippers and kingfishers, large waterfowl mammals, like beavers or otters – both of them mainly catch young fish, the adult often turns out to be too large for them.
It is possible to catch full-weight graylings lynxes, arctic foxes, bears, but they do this infrequently, mainly feeding not on fish, but on other living creatures. Therefore, for adults in nature, there are the least dangers, for young animals there are much more threats, but the worst thing is to be a fry.
They are hunted by many even small fish and birds, and they cannot defend themselves in any way. In addition, in the first couple of weeks, they can eat each other. As a result, only a small part of the fry survive to the age of 3 months, after which the threats to them gradually become less and less.
Interesting fact: Sometimes graylings do not wait until the prey itself falls into the water , and jump out after it to a height of up to 50 cm – usually this is how they catch mosquitoes flying low over the water. Therefore, in the evening it is very easy to see where there are more of them and you can safely start fishing.
Species population and status
In the last century, there has been a constant decline in the population. While it is still sufficient, graylings are not considered an endangered genus, but some of its species are protected in certain countries. Thus, the European grayling is a protected fish in Germany, Ukraine, Belarus and some regions of Russia.
The number of this fish in Europe has fallen several times over the past century, primarily due to human activities. Guilty of this is both direct fishing and, even to a greater extent, pollution of river waters. In recent decades, the population of grayling in the rivers of Europe has begun to stabilize, measures to protect it have had an effect.
The Siberian grayling population has also fallen sharply over the past century. The factors are the same, albeit less pronounced. To prevent a further decline in the number of fish, various measures are being taken in countries where they are taken under protection. For example, in Russia there are protected areas where fish is especially carefully protected – for example, there is a reserve on Vishera, where there are especially many graylings. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to protect fish in such a vast area, and therefore poachers continue to cause serious damage to populations.
To maintain it, artificial reproduction, which has been established in many European countries, is important. In Russia, Baikal, Sayan, Mongolian graylings were bred in this way, and in the European part of the country breeding was carried out in Lake Ladoga.
The grayling has almost become impoverished in European rivers, the same fate befell some Russian regions. To stop this process, it is necessary to take measures to preserve its population and artificial breeding – it helps to preserve and grow a much larger number of fry than in natural conditions.