By. Andrew Scrivo
While the majority of anglers venture to Alaskan waters in search of salmon, or perhaps a trophy rainbow, there is a unique species of game fish that is for some reason, often overlooked, or at the very least is less targeted. The purpose of this article is to shed a little light on this mystery-shrouded salmonid. And so, without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Dolly Varden Char(click).
For you Easterners, like myself, you may be thinking, “That looks like a Brookie." You would be correct. As another member of the char family, the brook trout is fairly closely related to the Dolly, sharing the same genus, salvelinus. They also share this genus with Bull Trout, Lake Trout and Arctic Char.
Dollies, being Char, are slightly different from trout in that they sport white leading edges on their fins and have generally a dark coloration with lighter spots rather than a light coloration with dark spots. Another difference you may notice after landing a Dolly is that they, like all char, do not have teeth on their upper palate. They also spawn in the fall (September –November) rather than the spring, which is a big difference between our dollies and resident rainbows. I should add here that during the spawning event the colors of the fish are just awesome! The mature males may grow a kype (long hooked snout) and all mature fish will darken, adorn black gill plates, brilliant orange highlights and spots, and the white leading edges on their fins will really stand out. Trust me, a Dolly dressed in full spawning regalia(click) is truly a sight to behold.
I should note, since I am writing to a bunch of anglers here, that the size of these fish can range from 10" to a whopping 32” but are most often caught in the 12"-24” range.
Dollies in Alaska can be caught just about anywhere, including small streams, lakes, rivers and even the salt water. To add to the mystery of the fish, Dollies are what scientists call amphidromous, meaning they, like the salmon. spend time in both the fresh and salt waters,.BUT unlike the anadromous salmon who return only to spawn, amphidromous Dollies move in and out of the saltwater at will and with no rhyme or reason that scientists can figure out! Amazing right? Yep, some Dollies spend inordinate amounts of time in the salt while others live in lakes their entire lives… and no one knows why! Interested in fishing for Dollies yet?
Please listen to the following options and ponder your answers carefully: Do you like to sneak through temperate rainforest high sticking small streams for ravenous and somewhat spooky fish sucking up eggs and flesh like Hoovers(click) from under a blanket of spawning salmon? Do you want to drift down the turquoise waters of the wild and wonderful Kenai River watching bears and eagles in pursuit of multiple species? Does wading into the surf and casting baitfish patterns into the Pacific, while surrounded by 360 degree mountain views sound like a good time to you? How about kicking around a remote hike-in lake in a float tube, catching fish-after-fish on dry flies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you want to fish for Alaska Dolly Varden(click).
As if you needed one more reason to come up to Alaska fishing with DragonFly Fishing Guides, here it is: These awesomely mysterious fish can, for all intensive purposes, ONLY be caught in Alaska!* So when you’re ready to pull the trigger and book your Alaskan fishing adventure with DFG, ask about targeting Dollies, the Alaskan Mystery Fish. You won’t be disappointed.
*There are coastal populations of sea run Dolly Varden along the coast of British Columbia, because of course, fish do not respect international borders. ;)