By Loraine Anderson
---- — Michigan's grayling perished with the state's virgin forests.
A remnant species of the ice-age Arctic grayling, it existed only in Lower Peninsula rivers north of a line drawn from Muskegon across the state to Tawas Bay and in a single Upper Peninsula stream, the Otter River in Houghton County.
The Boardman was one of the state's famous grayling rivers, along with other cool-water streams like the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon rivers.
By 1885, it had died out in the Au Sable River and was a rare catch in this region by 1900. It could be found in no Lower Peninsula waters by 1905, F.A. Westerman, state fisheries chief from 1925-1959, wrote in 1961.
"No fish responded more avidly to the artificial fly. Long leaders to which three and even four flies were attached often yielded successive catches of three and even four fish at a cast. Many were wasted; in a few years their numbers dwindled; and soon the question arose. 'What had become of the grayling?'"
They were eaten. They were packed in ice, loaded onto railway cars, and shipped by the thousands of tons per year to the large markets of the big cities. In some instances, they were tossed on the banks and buried in mounds, Westerman said.
Competition from state-planted, non-native European rainbow and brown trout also is believed to have been a factor.
The state's then-Department of Conservation declared the grayling extinct by 1930 because of logging, competition from state-planted rainbow and brown trout and overfishing.
The DNR attempted to restock 13 inland lakes and seven streams in northern Michigan with 145,000 yearling Arctic grayling from 1987 to 1991, but most disappeared within six months.