The Arctic char (or charr) is the northernmost freshwater fish that we know of. It has been obtained at 82° 34' N. (Floeberg Beach, North America), also at an altitude of 2,600 feet (792m) in the Alps and 6,000 feet (1829m) in the Carpathians. In the UK it was seemingly plentiful in Loch Maree in the nineteenth century. It is now classed as a Protected Species. Doubt exists as to where precisely it may be found. In the Flow Country Loch Choire and Loch Calder are known examples. In general the species inhabits the deeper lochs where it took refuge in the post-glacial period. In Iceland, however, it also likes brackish coastal waters and is often caught on flowing tides.

Its scientific name at present is Salvelinus alpinus. In the past as many as six other species have been ascribed to it in Britain and Ireland: nivalis, killinensis, willoughbyi, perisii, colii and grayi, the last from Lough Melvin being reported as the most distinctive. The number of these labels reflects the variations in the fish’s form. It is a graceful and delicious fish, “usually dark olive, bluish or purplish black above, with or without round orange or red spots, pinkish white or yellowish pink to scarlet or claret red below. When the char go to sea, they assume a more silvery coloration, similar to that of the salmon and sea trout; the red spots become very indistinct and the lower parts are almost white. The very young are also silvery on the sides and white below, and bear 11 to 15 bars, or parr-marks, on the side. The fish varies much according to locality.” (The Encyclopedia Britannica, the Great Eleventh of 1911.)

Have a look at this film “Arctic Char: Relics of the Ice Age” on YouTube.

Arctic char from Iceland

Photo by V.


Typical of the Scottish char

 Photo Eric Verspoor