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Winter grayling


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Ronan's report

Sunday, December 12th 2014

There was a time when, on a day like this, I would have gone fishing for grayling. Overcast, warm (for the season) and only a little wind usually meant a perfect fishing day, fishing nymphs for grayling.

Winter grayling are incredibly fit (some would say fat) as they spawn in April, so they're busy eating, eating, eating. Once in while, we'd get a grayling that had been feasting on cased caddis larvae and the belly would make an audible "crunching" sound (and feel) when you held the grayling.

They're not hard to catch during the winter as long as you stay low and walk carefully. Unfortunately, grayling populations have been decimated (on some systems, eradicated) by cormorants during the very cold winters of 2008-2011. I've written about this several times, and the populations were so low that a national, 3-year protection plan was implemented - and thankfully voluntarily adopted by all clubs with grayling water. And the plan was prolonged last year as well!

Christmas holds promises for better times! It seems now that the plan worked, and it's been helped along greatly by two mild winters. The harder the winter, the more cormorants come into the freshwater systems and lakes, and even though it's evident that this has become a regular part of the fouraging, a mild winter seems to send less cormorants up river. Cormorant populations also seem to be going down.

In Denmark, most systems are electro fished just after the season closes to secure males and females for the breeding programs, and from one small river in Denmark, the news were fantastic. During electro fishing for salmon and sea trout, over 2000 (yes, two thousand) grayling were seen - from small 1-year fish to large, +50cm specimens!

This is fantastic news and proof that protection plans really do work. It also proves, of course, that grayling are highly successful spawners and survivors. Niels Jepsen, a Danish fish biologist and senior researcher, once told me that although populations were extremely low he was confident that they would recover in time - due to the highly successful spawning of the graylings.

And these are only the news from one system - I'm anxious to hear news from other systems that hold grayling. Especially one small river in the north-western part of Denmark, where it's assumed that the population was completely eradicated. Maybe, just maybe, that population can slowly recover too!

The concern now is if cormorants will return to feed on the recovering populations once again, because there is no doubt that grayling are easy prey for a cormorant, and they have adapted the fourage technique easily. And the winter doesn't need to be cold and hard for them to return - they know it's easy!

But maybe, just maybe - with a little luck, we will once again have good grayling fishing in Denmark. I hope...

Have a great weekend!

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