Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Arctic char

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More on Alaska fish species

Species ranges from Kodiak north through Brooks Range

The arctic char is the most northerly distributed of char and char's closely related cousin, the Dolly Varden.


External characteristics differentiate between arctic char (Salvelinus malma Walbaum) and Dolly Varden. Arctic char generally have a shorter head and snout, a trait particularly evident in spawning males. The tail of an arctic char has a slightly deeper fork than that of a Dolly Varden, and the base of the arctic char's tail is narrower.

All chars have light spots on a dark background. The arctic char's back is dark with a brownish or olive cast. The sides are lighter, fading to a pale belly. The overall color may be brown, yellow, gold, orange or red.

As the char approaches spawning, the spots, belly and fins take on a bright orange, red or gold cast, and the lower fins have brilliant white leading edges.

In Alaska, arctic char are found in lakes in the Brooks Range, the Kigluaik Mountains, the Kuskokwim Mountains, the Alaska Peninsula, Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and in a small area of Interior Alaska near Denali National Park.

Alaska record

State record: 19 pounds, 12.5 ounces, Noatak River (northwestern Alaska), 1991, by Ken Ubben.

Tips for fishing

The largest Arctic char in Alaska probably occur in some of Bristol Bay's large lakes, where good fishing can be had from late May through early July when these fish congregate to feed on salmon smolts as they move toward the sea.

Best time to fish

Southcentral Alaska

  • Kenai Peninsula streams and lakes -- July, August, September
Western, Interior and Northern Alaska
  • Bristol Bay and Kodiak streams and lakes --June, July, August, September, October

Sources for this information include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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