Char, like trout, are of the salmonid family, and they are most of the most sought after freshwater species for sportfishing Bristol Bay. They are basically cousin to the trout and they are just as fun to catch on the fly, especially later in fall when they color up their radiant orange tones. These fish are present in most of the Bristol Bay watersheds we fish and they come in many shapes and sizes.
When to Fish
Char can be targeted at the season opener all the way through to ice over in many of the rivers and streams we fish. These fish can be very aggressive and taken using a number of methods, including on skated dry flies! Both Arctic char and Dolly Varden have beautiful colors, especially in the late summer and fall. To access the watersheds that hold these fish, we fly in our float plane and then walk and wade, often being able to sight fish in very shallow water. Guests love this active and adventurous portion of our fishing program.
Arctic Char Vs. Dolly Varden
Arctic char vary in color based on their environmental conditions and time of year, but they are often brown to greenish-brown on their upper body and lighter on the lower half of their body. Our area has both sea-run and resident lake-run Dolly Varden, along with lake-run Arctic char. The sea going Dolly Varden tends to be slightly smaller on average than the lake-run fish, though we catch sea-run fish up to 28 inches every summer. The lake-run fish can grow incredibly large, with fish up to 35 inches present in a number of systems within Becharof National Wildlife Refuge. They are huge and gorgeous!
It can be difficult to distinguish these two types of fish from each other. More often, Arctic char tend to have less spots but they are larger. Their tail is more deeply-forked and they have a narrower caudal peduncle (the area before the tail fin). Spawners are usually gold, orange, yellow or rose and occasionally red. Contrarily, spawning Dollies are usually red or pink on their lower section and have bright red spots. Spawning male Arctic char also have a much smaller kype (hooked lower jaw) than their Dolly counterpart.