Dolly Varden Northern Form

Dolly Varden caught in a remote stream in North of the Alaska Pennisula

Two forms of Dolly Varden exist with the dividing line running through central Alaska. The southern form ranges from southeast Alaska throughout the Gulf of Alaska to the south side of the Alaska Peninsula. The northern form ranges from the north side of the Alaska Peninsula northward to the Mackenzie River in Canada.

large male Dolly Varden feeding on sockeye eggs from their spawning redds

Southern-form Dolly Varden differ from northern-form Dolly Varden in number of vertebrae (62-65 for southern form and 66-70 for northern form) and in number of chromosomes (82 for southern form and 78 for northern form). Southern form Dolly Varden prefer to overwinter in lakes, but northern-form fish overwinter in rivers. Stream-resident and lake-resident populations are present in both forms but lake-resident northern populations are rare.

Dolly Varden caught on a pink salmon egg

The most obvious difference to us anglers - northern-form Dolly Varden can attain a much larger size than southern form Dollies. The current Alaska angling record from the northwestern part of the state is 27 pounds.

Dolly Varden grows big in the Summer north of the Alaska Pennisula feeding on salmon eggs