History of Arctic Grayling 

The Arctic grayling, Thymallus arcticus, was historically found in many coldwater streams throughout the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and in one Upper Peninsula stream. Large populations of grayling flourished in the Manistee and Au Sable Rivers, commanding such importance that one community adopted and bears its namesake (Grayling, MI). Over a few decades in the late 1800s, grayling played a prominent role as both a commercial food fish and as an attractive game fish, and the species is recognized as an important part of Michigan’s history. However, habitat destruction, unregulated harvest and predation/competition from non-native fish species led to the demise of one of Michigan’s iconic stream salmonids, resulting in grayling becoming extirpated from Michigan by 1936. 

Watersheds to be Considered for Reintroduction

The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative is prepared to receive your recommendations for potential watersheds. Ideally, interested parties would seek others in the partnership to team up with and solicit community support (at the local and county government level and with other local organizations).  


If you wish to discuss watershed nomination for Arctic grayling reintroduction, contact Jay Wesley at wesleyj@michigan.gov.

The Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, announced a proposed initiative in June 2016 that aims to bring back an extirpated species to the state – Arctic grayling.  The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative seeks to establish self-sustaining populations of this species throughout its historical range in Michigan. The initiative has more than 50 partners collaborating on the reintroduction.

The next steps include identifying interest and abilities of partners, collecting baseline data, initiating the building of broodstock and stocking efforts. The Manistee River watershed, once known as a premier grayling river, will be the first location for reintroduction.

The DNR will work closely with partners as the proposed Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative moves forward. The Little River Band, located in Manistee County, has been engaged in extensive research for potential grayling reintroduction for several years.

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