Arctic Grayling

A submerged view of a fish in shallow water
Of the 11 native fish in Yellowstone, Arctic grayling is one of three considered a sport fish.

©Jay Fleming

 

Fluvial (entirely stream-dwelling) Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus montanus) were indigenous to the park in the headwaters of the Madison and Gallatin rivers and to the Gibbon and Firehole rivers below their first falls. Fluvial grayling were eliminated from their entire native range within the park by the introduction of competing nonnative fishes such as brown trout and brook trout, and the fragmentation of migration pathways by the construction of the Hebgen Dam outside the park. Grayling within the upper Gallatin River drainage disappeared around 1900, while grayling in the upper Madison River drainage disappeared by 1935. The only known populations left in the park are adfluvial (primarily lake-dwelling) descendants of fish that were stocked in Cascade and Grebe lakes.

 
 

Restoration

One of the goals of the park’s 2010 Native Fish Conservation Plan is to restore fluvial grayling to approximately 20% of their historical distribution. The upper reaches of Grayling Creek are considered the best site for immediate fluvial grayling restoration. Near the park boundary, a small waterfall exists in the creek (which flowed directly into the Madison River prior to the construction of Hebgen Dam in 1914). It is not known if grayling were ever present upstream of the waterfall, but they were abundant downstream.

The Grayling Creek restoration project aims to establish Arctic grayling and westslope cutthroat trout to 95 kilometers (59 miles) of connected stream habitat in one of the most remote drainages in the species historic range within Yellowstone.

A second treatment took place in 2014. Restocking the Grayling Creek watershed with native fluvial Arctic grayling and westslope cutthroat trout began in 2015 and continued through 2017. The effort included moving approximately 950 juvenile and adult westslope cutthrout trout to lower reaches of Grayling Creek, above the project barrier. In addition, 54,200 westslope cutthrout trout eggs and 210,000 fluvial grayling eggs were placed in remote-site incubators throughout the upper watershed. In 2018, park biologists began to monitor the success of our reintroduction efforts on upper Grayling Creek. This monitoring effort will continue through the fall 2019.

 
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To maintain the natural biodiversity of the Yellowstone ecosystem, sometimes you have to start small. Fish biologist Todd Koel discusses efforts to restore native fish in Grayling Creek, a cup of eggs at a time.

 

Resources

Kaya, C. 2000. Arctic grayling in Yellowstone: Status, management, and recent restoration efforts. Yellowstone Science 8(3).

Steed, A.C., A.V. Zale, T.M. Koel, and S.T. Kalinowski. 2011. Population viability of Arctic grayling in the Gibbon River, Yellowstone National Park. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 30:1582-1590

 
Three spotted fish with red jaws underwater

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Yellowstone cutthroat trout are the most widespread native fish in the park.

A spotted fish with red belly laying on grass

Westslope Cutthroat Trout

Historically the most abundant and widely distributed subspecies of cutthroat trout throughout the West.

A silvery fish laying on a gray rock

Mountain Whitefish

Lives in rivers and streams with deep pools, clear and clean water.

A gray fish with dark sports and striped fins underwater

Mottled Sculpin

Mottled sculpin live in shallow, cold water throughout Yellowstone except the Yellowstone River above Lower Falls and in Yellowstone Lake.

A longnose dace floating above the sandy river bottom

Minnows

Yellowstone’s minnows are small fish living in a variety of habitats and eating a variety of foods.

A longnose sucker along the sandy river bottom

Suckers

Suckers are bottom-dwelling fish that use ridges on their jaws to scrape flora and fauna from rocks.

Angler fishing in Yellowstone during a golden morning.

Catch a Fish

Be a responsible angler and understand the regulations before you come.

Photo of a park employee cleaning a boat with a power washer.

Clean, Drain, and Dry

Protect park waters by preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Young cutthroat trout swimming in shallow water

Native Fish Conservation Program

Learn how the Native Fish Conservation Program works to preserve Yellowstone Lake cutthroat trout and to restore fluvial trout populations.

An underwater view of a spotted fish with a red slash on its neck and side swims above pebbles

Native Fish Species

Native fish underpin natural food webs and have great local economic significance.

Last updated: November 4, 2019

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Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

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307-344-7381

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