Arctic Grayling: Distribution, Introductions and Angling Records

Arctic Grayling is a fairly common fish in that has been stocked into many high elevation lakes. I knew very little about grayling until a friend wanted to catch one on a fly rod (read post). While gathering information about where we could catch grayling, I found a lot of information which may help you to find a place to catch Arctic Grayling in your state.

grayling distribution map

Distribution of Arctic, European and other grayling. Click for larger map.

Arctic grayling and European grayling Distribution

Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) is a Holarctic species meaning they are distributed in a circle around the arctic region of the northern hemisphere. They range in northern regions of North America, Asia and eastern Europe; east of the Ural Mountains. The Northern part of western Europe is inhabited by the European grayling (Thymallus thymallus). There are other species of grayling found in Russia (Siberia), China and Mongolia (see map).

  • Arctic grayling (T. arcticus)- North America, Asia and eastern Europe
  • European grayling (T. thymallus) – western Europe and the British Isles
  • Amur grayling (T. grubii) – Russia, China & Mongolia
  • Hovsgol grayling (T. nigrescens) – endemic to Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia
  • Baikal grayling (T. baicalensis) – Lake Baikal basin of Russia (Siberia) and Mongolia
  • Mongolian grayling (T. brevirostris) – Russia and Mongolia

Arctic Grayling in North America

In North America, the Louis & Clark expedition recorded “white trout” in the Beaverhead River, which we now know was the Arctic Grayling (T. arcticus).

The only remaining natural, native remnant population in the continental United States is in Big Hole River, Montana and was proposed for threatened or endangered protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2010. All other populations of grayling in the continental U.S. have been introduced. Including Alaska and Montana, Arctic Grayling have been introduced into 26 states.

States with Documented Introductions of Arctic Grayling

  • Alaska
  • Arizona –  Big Lake and the Salt and Verde drainages
  • California – at least 26 bodies of water
  • Colorado – Zimmerman Lake, North and South Platte rivers, the Rio Grande headwaters, the Eagle and Frying Pan rivers and the Arkansas drainage
  • Connecticut – Housatonic drainage
  • Idaho – the Kootenai, Spokane, Salmon, Bear, and Snake river systems
  • Iowa -the Maquoketa and Coon-Yellow rivers
  • Maine
  • Michigan – Ford Lake
  • Minnesota – Twin Lake in the Rainey headwaters, and several lakes in the Arrowhead region, including Musquash Lake
  • Missouri
  • Montana – Glacier National Park, the Belly, Red Rock, Madison, Gallatin, upper Missouri-Dearborn, Sun, Clarks Fork Yellowstone, Pend Orielle and Rock rivers
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada – high elevation lakes in the northern part of the state, Desert Creek, Ruby Valley and Steele Lake in Elko County
  • New Hampshire – Long Pond and Sunapee Lake
  • New Mexico – the Canjilon area
  • New York
  • Oregon – upper Deschutes and Umatilla river systems
  • Pennsylvania – Susquehanna and Delaware river systems
  • South Dakota – Missouri River system
  • Utah – high elevation lakes and streams in Beaver, Cache, Daggett, Duchesne, Kane, Garfield, Summit, Uintah, Wasatch and Wayne counties
  • Vermont – Caspian Lake
  • Virginia – Smith River below Philpott Res.
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin – the Namekagon, Wolf, Brule and Beartrap-Nemadji systems
  • Wyoming – Yellowstone Lake, Bighorn, Wind and Medicine Bow rivers, Big Sandy Reservoir, Jackson Lake, Babione Creek, Beartooth Lake and Frye Lake


Why so many Arctic Grayling Introductions?

Prior to the 1960s may introductions were done with little thought to ecological consequences. Today, introduction of grayling into high mountain lakes of the Rocky Mountains is done purely to provide recreational fishing. This because many trout species can not survive when dissolved Oxygen concentrations become very low during the winter in high elevation lakes (winter kill). Arctic Grayling can survive in low Oxygen concentrations of 0.6 to 4.8 mg/liter where other fish cannot. For comparison, studies have shown that 50% of rainbow trout die at Oxygen levels of 1.75 mg./l and most trout die at 1.5 mg./l.

There is little chance grayling can escape into lower elevation streams because they show signs of stress in water temperature as as low as 16.5° C (61.7 °F). They can tolerate water temperatures in excess of 20° C (68 °F), but they actively avoid those temperatures when possible.

U.S. Geologic Survey Records of Arctic grayling in Seventeen States

The following tables are scientific records for Arctic Grayling from the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) by state. Tables are sorted by Locality. These records do not show all areas where grayling may have been stocked, but do provide additional information about where they have been stocked and where they have been collected. If you have a favorite lake with grayling that is not in any of these tables, or have more recent information, I will be glad to add your records to the tables.

Status refers to the status of Arctic Grayling introductions:

  • Stocked – records indicate grayling were stocked
  • Established – the grayling population is established
  • Failed – the stocking attempt failed
  • Collected –  Arctic grayling were collected

I removed all duplicate records and left only the most recent record from the table if the status of Arctic Grayling was the same.

Records of Arctic Grayling in Arizona

Grayling have been established in at least seven areas in Arizona.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Greenlee Ackre Lake 2001 Black Established
Coconino Bear Canyon Lake 2001 Middle Little Colorado Established
Apache Big Lake 1943 Black Established
Gila River Basin 2004 Established
Apache Lee Valley Reservoir 2001 Little Colorado Headwaters Established
Coconino Mogollon Rim 1973 Lower Verde Established
White Mountains 1997 Salt Established

Records of Arctic Grayling in California

Grayling have been established in at least two areas in California, but most recent records are from 1987.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Alpine Alpine County 1972 California Collected
Amador Amador County 1972 San Joaquin Collected
Nevada Bullpen Lake 1969 Upper Yuba Failed
Sacramento Delta General Location 1950 Lower Sacramento Failed
Amador Devils Lake = Jackson’s Creek Res. 1969 Upper Mokelumne Failed
El Dorado Echo Lake = Lily Lake 1930 Lake Tahoe Failed
El Dorado El Dorado County 1972 California Collected
El Dorado Fawn Lake 1969 North Fork American Failed
Madera Grayling Lake, Yosemite NP 1930 Upper Merced Failed
Inyo Inyo County 1972 Northern Mojave-Mono Lake Collected
Placer Jim Lake 1969 North Fork American Failed
Lassen Lassen County 1972 California Collected
Mono Lobdell Lake 1980 West Walker Established
Mono Lobdell Lake & Desert Creek outlet 1987 West Walker Established
Lower Klamath drainage 1976 Lower Klamath Established
Mariposa Mirror Lake, Yosemite NP 1930 Upper Merced Failed
Nevada Nevada County 1972 Collected
Sierra Papoose Lake 1969 Lower Sacramento Failed
Shasta/Modoc Pit River drainage 1976 Upper Sacramento Established
Placer Placer County 1972 Collected
Plumas Plumas County 1972 Lower Sacramento Collected
Sacramento River tributaries 1906 Upper Sacramento Collected
Shasta Shasta County 1972 Upper Sacramento Collected
Sierra Sierra County 1972 Collected
Siskiyou Siskiyou County 1972 California Collected
Madera Star Lake 1930 Upper Merced Failed
San Diego Upper Cottonwood Creek 1916 Cottonwood-Tijuana Failed
Alpine Upper Virginia Lake 1969 Upper Carson Failed

Records of Arctic Grayling in Colorado

Grayling have been established in at least three areas in Colorado.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Arkansas River 1998 Upper Arkansas Collected
Boulder Barker Reservoir 2009 St. Vrain Collected
Eagle Eagle River 1900 Colorado Headwaters Failed
Eagle Frying Pan River 1899 Upper Gunnison Failed
Eagle Frying Pan River 1900 Roaring Fork Failed
Larimer Joe Wright Reservoir 2009 Cache La Poudre Established
Jackson Lower Big Creek Lake (Res.) 2002 Upper North Platte Stocked
North Platte River 1998 North Platte Stocked
San Luis Valley 1986 San Luis Failed
South Platte drainage 1998 South Platte Collected
Park South Platte River 1900 South Platte Headwaters Failed
Park South Platte River 1900 Upper South Platte Failed
Routt Steamboat/Pearl Lakes 2000 Upper Yampa Established
Larimer Zimmerman Lake 1993 Cache La Poudre Established

Records of Arctic Grayling in Idaho

Grayling have been established in at least four areas in Idaho, but the most recent records were in 1990. Grayling are still stocked from fish produced at the Idaho Fish and Game’s Ashton Fish hatchery.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Bonner Antelope Lake 1999 Lower Clark Fork Stocked
Custer Baptie Lake 2006 Big Lost Stocked
Custer Big Fall Creek Lake 1995 Big Lost Stocked
Blaine Big Lost Lake 2006 Big Wood Stocked
Idaho Bleak Creek Lake 1970 Middle Salmon-Chamberlain Stocked
Idaho Brown Creek Lake or Brown Lake 1970 Middle Salmon-Chamberlain Stocked
Valley Brush Lake 2002 North Fork Payette Stocked
Valley Buck Lake 2010 Upper Middle Fork Salmon Stocked
Boise Bull Trout Lake 1990 South Fork Payette Stocked
Fremont Coffee Pot spawning station 1946 Upper Henrys Failed
Shoshone Crater Lake 2011 St. Joe Stocked
Shoshone Dismal Lake 2009 St. Joe Stocked
Clark Divide Creek Lake 2006 Medicine Lodge Stocked
Blaine East Fork, Big Wood River 1900 Big Wood Failed
Idaho Eden Lake 2006 Little Salmon Stocked
Boise Elk Lake 2003 South Fork Payette Stocked
Shoshone Forage Lake 2003 St. Joe Last stocked in 2003,
Golden Trout stocked 2006
Custer Golden Lake 1995 Big Lost Stocked
Valley Granite Lake 2011 North Fork Payette Stocked
Custer Hell Roaring Lake 1997 Upper Salmon Stocked
Fremont Henrys Fork (Snake River) 1939 Upper Henrys Failed
Fremont Horseshoe Lake 2011 Upper Henrys Stocked
Elmore Island Lake 2006 North Middle Forks Boise Stocked
Clearwater Kelly Lake 1971 Upper North Fork Clearwater Stocked
Clearwater Kid Lake 1982 Upper North Fork Clearwater Stocked
Kootenai 1990 Kootenai Established
Valley Malony Lake 2010 North Fork Payette Stocked
Lemhi Nez Perce Lake 2010 Lemhi Stocked
Valley North Fork Payette River 1962 North Fork Payette Collected
Fremont North Fork Snake River 1962 Lower Henrys Established
Boundary Parker Lake 1999 Lower Kootenai Stocked but replaced by Golden trout
Clearwater Pot Lake 1971 Upper North Fork Clearwater Stocked
Custer Rainbow Lake 2009 Upper Salmon Stocked
Valley Rapid lake 1998? Buckhorn Creek Historic
Custer Round Lake 2006 Big Lost Stocked
Idaho Ruby Lake 1970 Middle Salmon-Chamberlain Stocked
Lemhi Salmon NF 2001 Middle Salmon-Panther Collected
Salmon River 1900 Salmon Stocked
Custer Sheep Lake 1973 Upper Salmon Stocked
Boundary Smith Lake 2001 Lower Kootenai Stocked
Twin Falls Snake River (Shoshone Falls) 1990 Upper Snake-Rock Established
Boise South Fork Payette River 1944 South Fork Payette Failed
Spokane drainage 1990 Spokane Established
Shoshone Steamboat Lake 2011 Lower North Fork Clearwater Stocked
Idaho Stingray Lake 1968 Upper Selway Stocked
Boise Three Lake 1990 South Fork Payette Stocked
Custer Tin Cup Lake 2011 Upper Salmon Stocked
Upper Bear drainage 1900 Upper Bear Stocked
Upper Snake River 1900 Upper Snake Stocked

Records of Arctic Grayling in Minnesota

Grayling have been established in at least two areas in Minnesota, but the records date back to 1974. Recent information indicates those populations have not persisted. The Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources website does not mention Arctic Grayling.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Cook Musquash Lake 1974 Baptism-Brule Established
Cook Lakes in Arrowhead region 1982 Baptism-Brule Stocked
Lake Twin Lake 1974 Rainy Headwaters Established

Records of Arctic Grayling in Montana

Besides the last remaining natural population in the Big Hole River, grayling have been established in Glacier National Park in Montana.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Glacier Belly drainage 1990 Belly Collected
Bitterroot River 1910 Bitterroot Failed
Carbon Clarks Fork Yellowstone 1990 Clarks Fork Yellowstone Collected
Lake Flathead Lake 2000 Flathead Lake Stocked
Flathead Lake 1990 Pend Oreille Collected
Deer Lodge Georgetown Lake 1909 Flint-Rock Established
Flathead Glacier NP 1999 Middle Fork Flathead Established
Granite Rock Creek 1990 Flint-Rock Collected
South Fork Flathead River 2000 South Fork Flathead Stocked
Upper Missouri-Dearborn 1990 Upper Missouri-Dearborn Collected
Park Washtub Lake 2003 Clarks Fork Yellowstone Stocked

Records of Arctic Grayling in New Hampshire

Grayling were reported to be established in at least one area in New Hampshire in 1907. The New Hampshire Fish and Game website does not mention Arctic Grayling.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Grafton Long Pond or Whitcher Pond 1907 Upper Connecticut Established
Sullivan Star Lake 1964 Upper Connecticut-Mascoma Stocked
Sullivan Sunapee Lake 1914 Upper Connecticut-Mascoma Failed

Records of Arctic Grayling in New Mexico

Grayling were stocked into the Canjilon area of New Mexico in 1957, but that attempt failed.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Rio Arriba Canjilon area 1957 Rio Chama Failed

Records of Arctic Grayling in Nevada

There were attempts to stock grayling in Nevada in at least four areas, but those attempts have apparently failed. There is no mention of grayling at the Nevada Department of Wildlife website except that the state record for Arctic grayling was 15 oz. caught in 1978.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Lyon Desert Creek 1978 West Walker Collected
High elevation lakes – North NV 1946 Black Rock Desert-Humboldt Collected
Elko-White Pine Ruby Valley 1941 Long-Ruby Valleys Collected
Elko Steele Lake 1984 Upper Humboldt Collected

Records of Arctic Grayling in Oregon

Arctic grayling introductions into Oregon have failed. There is no mention of Arctic grayling at the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife website except that the mountain whitefish is sometimes mistaken for grayling.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Umatilla McKay & Pearson Creeks 1900 Umatilla Failed
Deschutes Upper Deschutes River 1980 Upper Deschutes Stocked

Records of Arctic Grayling in South Dakota

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Unspecified 1937 Missouri River Failed

Records of Arctic Grayling in Utah

Grayling were reported to be established in at least 37 areas in Utah. The High Uintas area of Summit, Duchesne and Daggett counties are well known for grayling, but they can also be found in higher areas of Beaver, Wayne, Garfield and Kane counties in Central and Southern Utah.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Garfield Barker Res. 2007 Escalante Established
Duchesne Bedground Lake 2002 Duchesne Established
Garfield Big Lake 2007 Fremont Established
Wayne Blind Lake 1996 Fremont Collected
Duchesne Bud Lake 2007 Duchesne Established
Cache Streams & lakes 1950 Lower Bear Collected
Daggett Candy Lake (Weyman Lakes) 2007 Upper Green Established
Duchesne Carolyn Lake 1996 Duchesne Collected
Summit China Lake 2007 Blacks Fork Established
Garfield Circle Lake 2007 Escalante Established
Wayne Cook Lake 2002 Fremont Established
Garfield Crater Lake 2002 Escalante Established
Daggett Streams & lakes 1950 Upper Green Collected
Daggett Daggett Lake in the Uintas 1963 Upper Green Established
Daggett Daggett Lake in the Uintas 1967 Upper Green Failed
Uintah Dead Lake 2007 Duchesne Established
Duchesne Streams & lakes 1953 Lower Green Collected
Sanpete Emerald Lake 2007 Muddy Established
Wayne Green Lake 2007 Fremont Established
Garfield Halfmoon Lake 2007 Escalante Established
Garfield Horseshoe Lake 2007 Escalante Established
Summit Kabell Lake 2007 Upper Green Established
Beaver LaBaron Res. 2007 Beaver Bottoms-Upper Beaver Established
Wasatch Lackawaxen Lake 1996 Provo Collected
Daggett Lamb Lake 2002 Upper Green Established
Uintah Little Elk Lake 2002 Ashley-Brush Established
Garfield Lower Barker Res. 2007 Escalante Established
Kane Navajo Lake 1996 Upper Sevier Established
Garfield Pacer Lake 2007 East Fork Sevier Established
Wayne Pear Lake 2007 Fremont Established
Garfield Posy or Posey Lake 2007 Escalante Established
Wayne Raft Lake 2007 Fremont Established
Summit Round Lake 1996 Upper Weber Collected
Summit Round Lake 2007 Upper Green Established
Garfield Row Lake 2007 Escalante Established
Summit Sand Lake 1996 Upper Weber Established
Utah Silver Lake 2007 Utah Lake Established
Summit Snow Lake 2007 Upper Green Established
Summit Star Lake 2007 Provo Established
Salt Lake Streams near Salt Lake 1950 Jordan Established
Summit Streams & lakes 1953 Collected
Summit Summit Lake 1996 Upper Weber Established
Summit Trial Lake 2007 Provo Established
Uintah Streams & lakes 1953 Upper Colorado Collected
UTAH Tributaries to Utah Lake 1950 Utah Lake Collected
Summit Wall Lake 2007 Provo Established
Summit Washington Lake 2007 Provo Established
Summit Whiskey Island Lake 2007 Upper Bear Established

Records of Arctic Grayling in Virginia

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Henry Smith River below Philpott Res. 1972 Upper Dan Failed

Records of Arctic Grayling in Vermont

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Orleans Caspian Lake 1900 Lamoille Failed

Records of Arctic Grayling in Washington

The USGS data seem to show that grayling were established in 1946, but had failed by 1978. Fishermen report catching grayling in Granite Lake (Skagit County) in 2008 and 2009.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Skagit Lower Granite Lake 1978 Upper Skagit Failed
Skagit Upper Granite Lake 1946 Upper Skagit Established

Records of Arctic Grayling in Wisconsin

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Douglas Brule River 1900 Beartrap-Nemadji Failed
Douglas Lake Nebagamon 1906 Beartrap-Nemadji Failed
Sawyer Mosquito Brook 1937 Namekagon Failed
Bayfield Namekagon River 1908 Namekagon Failed
Waushara Pine River 1938 Wolf Failed

Records of Arctic grayling in Wyoming

Arctic grayling were reported as established in at least six areas in Wyoming and continue to be stocked by helicopter in many high elevation lakes.

County Locality Year Drainage Status
Between North Platte & Laramie River 1980 North Platte Stocked
Sheridan Babione Creek 2001 Upper Tongue Collected
Park Beartooth Lake 2001 Clarks Fork Yellowstone Collected
Big Horn mountain range 1994 Big Horn Established
Sweetwater Big Sandy Reservoir 1980 Big Sandy Collected
Fremont Frye Lake 2001 Popo Agie Collected
Teton Jackson Lake 1980 Snake Headwaters Collected
Sublette Meadow Lake 1970 New Fork Established
Medicine Bow River 1994 Medicine Bow Established
Near Bighorn NF 1980 Big Horn Collected
Powder-Tongue drainage 1994 Powder-Tongue Established
Wind River, Big Horn & Medicine Bow Mtns 1994 Missouri Region Collected
Johnson Willow Lake 1970 Clear Established
Wind River 1994 Upper Wind Established

State Angling Records for Arctic Grayling

Nine U.S. states keep State Records for the largest grayling.

State Weight Length Location Year
Alaska 4 lbs 13 oz  ??? Ugashik Narrows 1981
Montana 3 lbs 10 oz  20 Washtub Lake 2003
Idaho 2 lbs 7 oz  18.125 Nez Perce Lake 1992
Wyoming 2 lbs 5.76 oz  19.625 Meadow Lake 1983
Utah 1 lbs 12 oz  17.25 Big Dog Lake 1998
California 1 lbs 12 oz  ??? Lobdell Lake 1974
Colorado 1 lbs 10 oz  17.25 Big Creek Lake 2002
Arizona 1 lbs 9.76 oz  14.65 Lee Valley Lake 1995
Nevada 0 lbs 15 oz  13.75 Desert Creek 1978

Arctic Grayling Provincial Angling Records

Three Canadian Provinces keep records for largest grayling. The largest recorded North American grayling was caught in Canada. It was 533 mm and 2.71 kg (almost 21 inches long and almost 6 pounds), but that fish does not appear in any Provincial angling record.

Province Weight Length Location Year
Alberta 2 lbs 15 oz ??? ??? 1996
Manitoba ??? 23.0 Wolf Lake 1991
Saskatchewan 4 lbs 5 oz ??? Fond du Lac River 1966

Catch and Release State Angling Records for Arctic Grayling

Only two states apparently keep catch and release records for grayling. So if anyone wants to claim the record for Arctic Grayling in any of those states or provinces, let me know.

State Length Location Year
Alaska
Arizona
California
Colorado   17 Pearl Lake ???
Idaho
Montana
Nevada
Utah   19 Uinta Mtns 1999
Washington
Wyoming

Arctic Grayling Classification

The North American grayling were originally separated into at least three species based upon their isolated distributions, but today all North American grayling are considered to be Thymallus arcticus.

  • T. signifer – Alaska and northern Canada
  • T. montanus  – Upper Missouri River drainage (Montana)
  • T. tricolor – Upper Great Lakes tributaries in Michigan (original population is now extinct)

Comments

  1. Dennis james says:

    Hi my name is Dennis James.I was looking at the record on Pearl Lake (Colorado) for grayling. I’m sure I crushed the record, but let the fish go as not to harm it. It was at least 21 inches and weighed 2 to 3 pounds. What a great fall day. I have fished Pearl Lake for 30 years and this day was amazing. Check out the pics on the Steamboat Lake State Park Facebook Page and let me now what you think.

    • Nice Fish Dennis. Thanks for sharing. I found your picture with the Arctic grayling at the Steamboat Lake State Park Facebook page and made a link so others can see it. I believe you brother… That’s no fish tale and you have the pic to prove it. And it looks like you caught the fish on a Rapala. They may not award the record to you, but the record should always have an asterisk beside it.

    • Amazing! I plan to add Pearl Lake CO to next year. Just amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Rapid Lake needs to be added for Idaho. Near McCall, this lake is an easy, EASY three mile hike. On the hike, you pass a couple of cutthroat lakes. Fished it about 18 years ago with my girlfriend (now wife) and a buddy. Hit it on Fourth of July weekend that year and there were still some snow around the lake. While I was rigging up my fly rod, my girlfriend was walking over to a boulder to sit on when she stopped, pointed at the two foot wide creek, and said, “I think those are the grayling-thingies you are looking for.
    I walked over, and there in the creek was a pod of 10-11″ grayling. Being a fine sportsman who had never seen a grayling in the wild, I stealthily put my little trout net behind the pod of fish and then reached around a tree on the bank and splashed the water in front of them. Yup, one went right into the net. A quick picture and it was put back with his buddies in the creek. There was no way I was going to risk NOT getting a good pic of one! It really didn’t matter…
    We started casting at the inlet to the lake and we pounded grayling. Both of us being nymph fishermen, little #16 BH Hare’s ears produced a ton of fish. Haven’t been back since, but wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t a self-sustaining population today. Oh ya, you have Crater Lake listed for Idaho too.
    When I first moved back to Idaho, heard about the grayling there and told a YOUNGER buddy to try it. He came back with pics of BIG grayling, all looked like 18-20” The hike is ¼ mile from the road, but pretty much straight down. Found out if you go past the lake, someone has cut out an atv trail to the lake. The trail is over a mile long to the lake, but is really easy.

    • I’ve added Rapid Lake as a historic lake, but can’t find any current records referring to Arctic grayling in the lake. It seems that they are easily out-competed by trout when stocked together. Still have that picture? Contact me here and I’ll send you an email address.

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