The Grayling is a schooling fish which inhabits the submountain regions of rivers with sandy or stony beds. It spawns in spring, when it leaves its home territory and migrates upstream to the areas with a more gravelly river bed. The spawning grounds arc prepared by the males, which often chase and attract several females onto them. By comparison with members of the salmon family, the grayling has a relatively small head, which has a small mouth with a fleshy, overhanging snout. It has impressively large scales and a high, long and vivid dorsal fin. It measures up to 50 cm and can weigh 1 kg or sometimes even more. The young fish are a light silvery green and often have bluish spots on the sides.
The grayling inhabits the submountain rivers of Europe from Wales and France, across Europe southwards to northern Italy and the watershed of the River Po. However, it is not normally found in southern Europe or the northern parts of Scandinavia and Ireland. In the Alps it swims upriver to a height of 1,500 metres above sea level and in the Carpathians up to about 1,000 metres.
The grayling subspecies Thymallus arcticus baicalensis, which is a native of Lake Baikal and its tributaries, has been introduced relatively successfully in some European valley reservoirs. It is distinguished by an overall darker colouring and a larger mouth. Another subspecies is found in North America.
Maximum size and weight: 60 cm, 1.5 kg.
Identifying characteristics: Fish with large scales, small mouth and adipose fin; dorsal fin strikingly high and brightly coloured.