Dolly Varden

Salvelinus malma

Dolly Varden

  • Latin: Salvelinus malma
  • Yup'ik: anerrluaq, iqallugpik, iqalluyagaq
  • Subspecies of the Dolly Varden Species: Dolly Varden Trout,
  • Description


    Dolly Varden are of the salmon family, like salmon and trout, however Dolly Varden are char. Chars unlike other salmonid have light spots on a darker background and lack of teeth on the shaft of the vomer/upper palate. They are grey/silver, and have dark backs sometimes with an olive tint, with dark spots and white/light/silver spots and or pink/reddish spots on their sides and fading into their bellies. Their fins are generally plain of patterns. They're usually more/smaller spotted than Arctic Char.

    While spawning male Dolly Varden develop large hooks at the tip of their lower jaw. Spawning varden usually develop bright red/pink spots that can be encircled by light grey circles. Their bellies match the red/pink spots in color and brilliance.

    Adolescent Dolly Varden can have a dark tiger stripe appearance still with light spots.


    When it comes to Dolly Varden breeding males take two approaches. Direct pairing with a female, or "streaking" where they rush in, drop their DNA across the eggs, and rush out. Two factors play into which method is applied; Frist, larger older males tend to pair up, where as less mature males tend to be streakers. Second, lake or sea run varden seem to pair, whereas stream residents seem to streak more.

    Diet & Habitat

    Dolly Varden are usually found in lakes and drainages somewhat close to the coast.

    Dolly Varden can be found as far north all along Alaska. In the northern populations the reside in lakes, river and maybe anadromous. Northern populations of anadromous Dolly Varden spawn and winter in rivers.

    In Southeast Alaska anadromous Dolly Varden migrate between both lake fed and non-lake fed streams. During their first summer, Dolly Varden from non-lake fed streams will search out other streams for a lake to mature in.


    Johann Walbaum, discovered the fish in Kamchatka, Russia, in 1792, assigning it the species suffix malma. Obviously Dolly Varden doesn't sound Russian. Northern California around 1872 they got slapped with the name after resembling the Vardens beautiful daughter Dolly, in the novel Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens, who's complexion was rosy and dress colorful, as were the Salvelinus malma spawning at the time.

  • Habitat & Range