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Fishing in Alaska: Dolly Varden

Fishing in Alaska: Dolly Varden

If you decide to go Dolly Varden fishing in Alaska, you have two types to choose from, anadromous and freshwater. These two types of Dolly Varden can be very different in size, with the freshwater Dolly sometimes reaching over 12 lb in size. Anadromous Dolly Varden usually only live for about eight years, while the freshwater type can reach sixteen years of age. You should fish in the Aleutian Islands, or in Southeast Alaska for anadromous Dolly Varden, while the north slope and the southern Interior are good for freshwater Dollies.

The Alaska Dolly Varden is distinguishable from other fish of this species found elsewhere in the United States by its dusky white coloured underbelly, and the local name for it is the Giigaq, a native American word. Dolly Varden can be found throughout Alaska, in the sea, in pools of creeks and rivers, in lakes, and even in clear streams up in the mountains. You can catch these fish with lures, especially spinners, with dry flies, salmon eggs, streamer flies, meat, and with live bait.

If you are anadromous Dolly Varden fishing in Alaska, it is useful to know this fish’s migratory pattern. If fishing off the coast you can expect to find young adult specimens, who tend to live out their first few years in the sea before returning inland to spawn. During the months of August and October, you can expect to see mature adult anadromous Dolly Varden migrating upstream to spawn. This is an excellent opportunity for anglers to make good catches. The newborn anadromous Dolly Varden will remain in the inland streams for up to three years, before migrating downstream to the sea. This usually occurs during May and June, and is another good opportunity to fish for Dolly Varden in Alaska. Not all anadromous Dolly Varden die once they spawn – about half of them will survive. These mature specimens then spend the winter months inland, before returning to the sea. Ice fishing of Dolly Varden during the winter in Alaska can therefore yield good results, if you find the right streams.

Freshwater Dolly Varden can be found in inland lakes and streams throughout the year. However they can also be difficult to locate during the winter, under the frozen surfaces of the lakes.