Whenever the name of the Dolly Varden comes up, I can’t hep but laugh a little.

Dolly Varden is the name of a person, not a fish. It’s like naming your dog Steve, Jim, Tyler or James.

The Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) is a member of the salmon family in the Charr group. It was named after a character in a Charles Dickens novel, Barnaby Rudge. Dolly Varden was the daughter of the locksmith, Gabriel Varden,and the lover of Joe Willet.

The Bull Trout and the Dolly Varden

There is a lot of confusion over the differences and similarities between the Dolly Varden and Bull Trout. Many believe that the Dolly Varden and the Bull Trout are the same species, with the Bull Trout being a local variant of the Dolly Varden. Others believe that they are two separate species.

In truth, the Bull Trout was considered a local variant of the Dolly Varden for some time. There was a lot of confusion in the early days after the fish was discovered and much of that confusion is still present. However, scientists now agree that they are two separate species.

Anadromous Dolly Varden

The Dolly Varden is found in rivers, streams, the sea and brackish water. Like the other Charr, the Dolly Varden migrate back and forth between freshwater and the sea.

They are found in many parts of the world from Japan to North America and Europe and as far north as the Northwest Territories. They prefer cold water and will quaikly perish of introduced into warm water.

All Tackle Record Dolly Varden

The Dolly Varden averages around 2 pounds with most fish being in the one to three pound range. The largest all-tackle record Dolly Varden ever caught was in 2001 by Raz Reid in Wulik River, Alaska.

It weight a woping 20 pounds, 14 ounces. This beat the previous all-tackle record of 19 pounds, four ounces also caught in Alaska. Many outdated fishing sites claim this as the largest Dolly Varden every caught.

Dolly Varden Identification

The Dolly Varden and the Bull Troat look alike and are often misidentified and literature on the two fish is often misleading.

One key differentiator is that the Butt Trout is grows much bigger than the Bull Trout. However, this is not enough when dealing with fish under five pounds. The Dolly Varden has a more rounded body shape to the slender Bull Trout.

The Dolly Varden spends most of its time in Coastal waters where the Bull Trout prefers to spend most of its time in rivers, streams and deep cold lakes. With a little observation, these fish are not hard to differentiate.