Other Names: arctic char, sea-run, ilkalupik, martson trout, Quebec red trout, and blueback trout.
Range & Habitat: Distributed throughout the Polar Regions and is the most northerly distributed of char and its closely related cousin, the Dolly Varden. Arctic char generally have a short 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. In Alaska, they are known to occur only in the lake resident form. 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 Park.
Identification & Biology: Like all chars, Arctic char have light colored spots on a dark background. They are variable in color depending on environmental conditions within their lake of residence and time of year. The 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. The entire body may become golden or orange. Spawning colors are more exaggerated in males than in females."
Little is known about the life history of Arctic char in Alaska lakes. However, in other areas, char often exist in two different forms in the same lake. These forms are usually described as "dwarf" and "normal." The forms show differences in habitat and food selection, resulting in different growth rates, size at maturity, and average size. After reaching sexual maturity at an age of 6 to 9 years, Arctic char are thought to spawn every other year. Growth and maximum size may vary greatly, depending on the productivity of the particular lake and the presence of other fish species. Fish over 10 pounds are not uncommon in some Alaska lakes, while other lakes may not produce fish over 2 pounds even though fish may reach great age.
Market Description: Arctic char (Quebec red trout) is marketed mainly fresh and frozen as whole dressed fish and steaks. A small quantity is canned. In whatever form, it is a highly priced delicacy. The flesh varies in color and may be red, pink or white, with the red commanding the highest price. Red trout are an excellent source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and are a great source of lean protein. On top of that, they are delicious! It is said to combine the delicious flavors of brook trout and salmon.