The Arctic Char

We’ve all seen pictures of these stunning fish, but how much do we really know about it? Enter Amberjack Journal.

The Arctic char is anadromous salmonid, meaning that it’s related to trout and can live in both fresh and saltwater. It mirrors the migratory patterns of salmon, which spend much of their time at sea but return to freshwater rivers and creeks to spawn. Like salmon, there are many populations of landlocked Arctic char that spend all of their lives in freshwater lakes and rivers. In some places, arctic char are extremely numerous and the fish in general is classified as “least concern” in terms of endangerment.


The Arctic char can reach some pretty epic weight classes, with the occasional 20 pounder showing up from time to time. It is known as an extremely colorful fish, changing drastically throughout the year and especially during spawning. Like steelhead, the male’s color changes the most during spawning. Female char stay more silvery. Spawning occurs in the fall, and many males will set up territories over gravely bottoms and spawn with multiple females at once.



Arctic char are constantly confused with dolly varden. Both fish are char and experience an intense coloration during spawning, so it’s easy to see how one could mix them up. We actually did it in the making of this article. To explain the difference, here is a quote from

“Dolly Varden look like, and are often confused with, Arctic char. Dolly Varden generally have a greenish body with many small (smaller than the pupil of the eye) spots, a relatively-thick caudal peduncle (constriction in body at base of tail fin), and a slightly-forked tail. Arctic char, in contrast, generally have a bronzish-yellow body with fewer and larger (larger than the pupil) cream-to-orange colored spots, a slim caudal peduncle, and a noticeably-forked tail. Spawning male Dolly Varden usually develop a distinct kype, which is absent or reduced in spawning male Arctic char. In Alaska, Dolly Varden spawn and usually live in streams and rivers (although southern-form Dolly Varden usually overwinter in lakes) and may migrate to and from the ocean, but Arctic char in Alaska generally complete their entire life cycle in lakes.”

If you want to catch a char, your best bet is to head north into the Arctic circle where the biggest ones are. This video explains a bit about that…

Awesome char video from Western Waters Media:

Cover image by @somdreamscometrue

Fish Eye Guy Photography -