Dolly Varden prefer deep pools an riffles in rivers and streams. Most native Dolly Varden are anadromous, meaning that they are sea going.

However, Dolly Varden can also be found in reservoirs and lakes. Some are there naturally, where the lakes have been cut off front he sea over time. Others have been introduced by government stocking programs.

Like other predatory fish like Smallmouth Bass and Largemouth Bass, Dolly Varden prefer the safety of cover including river banks with over hanging debris or cliffs. Areas with sunken debris also work well.

Rocks, sunken boats and logs offer great cover. Dolly Varden also prefer the lake and river bottoms that are rocky with both small and larger rocks. Gravel and sandy bottoms are also preferred.

Dolly Varden and Cold Water

The Dolly Varden is a cold water fish. While all freshwater fish tolerate cold water, especially as most lakes and rivers drop to the low 30°F/0°C in the winter.

Dolly Varden, though, prefer cold water all year around and the clearer the better.

The most comfortable water temperature for them is right around 55°F/13°C. Much above this and they seek out deeper, colder water.

In spawning season, they are very happy with water temperatures in the 40°F/5°C and won’t actually start spawning until the water reaches the mid 40°F/6°C to 42°F/7°C.

Seagoing Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden migrate from the sea inland, up rivers to their place of birth to spawn. These fish are called anadromous, in that they are sea going. The Dolly Varden are also found in lakes and reservoirs that are landlocked, spending their entire life in a single body of water.

Spawning Acrobatics

Like other Salmonaedes, the Dolly Varden heads up their natal stream in the fall to spawn. They can jump as high as 8 feet into the air to jump over obstacles. However, if there is a way around, they will choose the path of least resistance.

It’s an impressive journey that the Dolly Varden underrates to spawn. Some rivers are longer than 100 miles/160 kilometres over rough terrine and climb high over high elevations. It is no wonder that these are great fighting fish.