Young Dolly Varden fry feed on benthic and near benthic drifting aquatic insects, zooplankton and crustaceans.

When they reach the juvenile stage, they feed on a variety of food throughout the lake or spawning area that they were born. However, they still prefer to feed close to the bottom where there is cover.

Sea going Dolly Varden feed mostly on fish, however, if there is an abundance of other food and fish are hard to find, they will switch rather than go hungry.

Those that are lake bound, unable to reach the ocean as they are land locked, will feed on a variety of foods from bait fish to insects both aquatic and terrestrial.

The food they focus on the most is the food that is the most abundant at the time. If small fish are present in abundance throughout the year, they will focus on that particular fish. If the food types vary from season to season, they will adjust to the most popular prey available.

Dolly Varden Diet Myths

Many anglers claim that the Dolly Varden will only eat a particular type of bait like whitefish, perch or sculpins. Or, that they will only eat fish.

These generalities are not true in the least. While some Dolly Vardens may focus on a particular fish or prey due to limited prey options, this does not mean that they will only eat one food type.

In some lakes and reservoirs where the Dolly Varden are stocked, there may be limited food options that cause them to focus on a particular type.

However, examinations of their stomachs have shown them to eat a wide variety of foods including small ducks, frogs, snakes and even mice. Like other Charr, they will focus on the most popular prey type, but they will not go hungry if it is not available.