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Salvelinus alpinus - Arctic Charr

Arctic Charr

What's in a Name?

The Arctic Charr (Salvelinus alpinus) is one of five fish species that are classified as charr. Charr species are difficult for many anglers to differentiate. In fact, many charr are considered other species by most seasoned anglers.

Arctic Charr Scientific Notification

Above: Scientific notification.

What helps with this confusion is that the five species are so greatly different in coloration that many are considered to be species or subspecies. In fact, several Charr have common names with the name trout in them further confusing matters.

To further add to this confusion is that the same species is often referred to as two separate species: the anadromous form and the nonanadromous forms.

The anadromous form being a charr that migrates to the sea and the nonanadromous being a charr that is landlocked, living in freshwater year round for life.

The Ocean going (anadromous) Arctic Charr is larger than its landlocked (nonanadromous) charr. This is largely a fact of there being more food in the ocean than there being in lakes and rivers watersheds.

The Arctic Charr is found everywhere that the sea-run charr exists but also occurs in smaller numbers much farther to the south.

Numerous Names

Adding to the aforementioned confusion is the naming convention of the Charr species. The Arctic Charr is known by over 15 different names. The ocean going Arctic Char is most often called the char, red charr or arctic charr.

The Inuit have many names for the Arctic charr: iqalugaq, iqaluk, ilkalupik, ivisaaruq, kisuajuq, majuqtuq, nutiliarjuk, situajuq, situliqtuq, tisuajuq.

And, being a fish found in Europe and asia, it is also called fjeldørred, omble chevalier, saibling, eqaluk, bleikja, iwana, arktisk roye, goletz and röding.

The landlocked Arctic Charr is known by blueback charr, blueback trout, Sunapee trout, golden trout (Sunapee), Quebec red.

Table Fare

The Arctic Charr has a mild flavor and cooks up quickly, having a good taste and texture. It is generally accepted that its taste is a mix between salmon and trout. It is also a great source of omega-3, making t a good healthy choice.

Mussel Foam Lightly Salted Arctic Charr

Above: Mussel Foam Lightly Salted Arctic Charr.

As far as cooking, it is just as flexible as Salmon. The Arctic Char can be grilled, steamed, broiled, poached or blackened.

Arctic Char on a Bed of Kale

Above: Arctic Char on a Bed of Kale.

Food Preferences

The Arctic Char prefers insects, mollusks and small fish. Ninespine sticklebacks are important forage in some places.

The charr often does not eat in the winter, when its metabolic rate slows in tune with a cooling environment, entering a semi sleeping state.

During this time, it lives on the fat it has accumulated during the summer. As such, growth is limited during the cold months and greatest when at sea.

Arctic Charr Features

The Arctic Charr is characterized by light-colored spots on its body below the lateral line, extending to the leading edges of all fins. The lower part of the body is a soft white.

The Arctic Char is a long and slender fish with a small, pointed head. It has an adipose fin, an axillary process at the base of each pelvic fin and a slightly forked tail. Another distinction of the fish is that it has very fine scales that are deeply embedded that the skin has a smooth soft touch.

Coloration is different between the seagoing and land locked Arctic Charr. However that being said, the arctic charr is essentially silver for nonspawning char. The back and upper sides are deep green or blue and have a white belly.

Spawning Male Arctic Char

Male Spawning Arctic Charr

Above: Spawning male Arctic Charr.

The spawning males have a bright red or reddish-orange coloration on the sides while the under side and the lower fins are muted. A spawning male of some populations will develop a kype while some have humped backs.

Spawning Female Arctic Char

Female Spawning Arctic Charr

Above: Spawning female Arctic Charr.

Spawning females are less intense with their red coloring. The red colouring is only on their flanks and bellies while their backs remain bluish or greenish.

Arctic Charr Size

Arctic charr, despite the cold climate, can grow quite large reaching as long as three feet/one metre and can live as log as 30 years, which is astonishing when you consider that the average salmon matures at age four and usually does not live past five or six years.

Trophy Arctic Charr

Above: trophy Arctic Charr.

The largest sea-run charr grows much larger than the landlocked Arctic Char. The all- tackle world record is 32 pounds, 9 ounces. It was caught in Tree River, Northwest Territories in 1981.

However, the average size of sea-run arctic charr is between seven and 11 pounds. The landlocked Arctic Charr is typically a few pounds smaller due to limited food availability, especially in the winter months.

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