The Most Beautiful Fish in North America



My vote for the most beautiful fish in North America goes to the Arctic Grayling. Found in North America only in the northernmost reaches of Canada and in Montana and Idaho in the U.S., the Arctic Grayling is easily identified by its unique dorsal fin that runs along its back. It’s a fish invariably found in the mouths of rivers and streams and can be fished with either fly rod or light spinning tackle. Big Sand Lake has an abundance of rivers and streams running into it that hold substantial numbers of Arctic Grayling.


The largest recorded Arctic Grayling weighed only 8.4 pounds, so it is not a large growing species. What makes it remarkable is its glistening beauty, a fish seemingly almost created in a Disney animated film. And it’s not a fish as easily located and caught as others, even in Big Sand Lake. That, of course, is what makes it more challenging especially for the angler intent on bagging all four of Manitoba’s trophy species: Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Walleye and Arctic Grayling.


The fish goes by the Latin name Thymallus arcticus, an appellation given to it by Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus all the way back in 1758. The Thymallus refers to the faint scent of thyme in the flesh of the fish as noted by Linnaeus. Whatever its name and subtle scent, it is a joy to catch, especially for a fly fisherman wading one of Big Sand Lake’s many rivers and streams. Keep in mind that Big Sand Lake is 70 miles long with dozens of spots that might yield the elusive Arctic Grayling.


I’m given to understand that Arctic Grayling is quite tasty when prepared any number of ways. I’ve caught quite a few over the years but admired their beauty so much that I always returned them to the water to live another day.


by Gary Cole