Salvelinus malma

Identification Tips:

• Typical salmon/trout body form
• Adults Light coloured spots (pale pink to red) on darker background
• Adipose fin present
• no spines
• Juveniles have wide parr marks, that may be as wide as tall.

Extremely difficult to distinguish from Bull Trout, especially as juveniles:
• Bull trout have larger adult body and larger, wider-spaced spots on back
• Bull trout upper jaw is longer than base of anal fin; approximately equal in Dolly Varden

Conservation Status:

British ColumbiaCanadaNatureserve
COSEWICSpecies at Risk Act
Not at Risk (Yellow List)Not AssessedNoneG5, S4

Information Source: BC Conservation Data Centre:

Life History:

• Three life history types; sea run, stream resident and lake dwelling/stream spawning
• Mature in their 4th or 5th year and may live 10 years, spawning several times
• Eat aquatic invertebrates, primarly
• Larger fish (>30 cm) eat fish
• Spawn in fall

Sea run fish
• Spend first 3 to 4 years in freshwater
• Older fish migrate to inshore marine waters and estuaries in spring
• Return to rivers to spawn in late summer or fall
• Overwinter in lakes or other freshwater habitats


• Require cool waters usually <15 C; rarely exceed 20 C • Found in wide variety of habitats; small streams, larger rivers, large lakes, small boggy lakes and inshore ocean • Where they occur with Bulltrout, Dolly Varden are usually limited to small streams while Bulltrout occupy lakes and larger river habitats • Sea run fish remain in or near estuaries while in salt water. • Juveniles use shallow, slow-moving stream pools or side channels • Fry in first summer occupy shallow rocky habitats on channel margins, sheltering among rocks and other cover


British Columbia
• Most coastal streams including Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii

• Korea and northern Japan to Siberia
• Washington state to northern Alaska


• Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) introduced by fisheries stocking programs to some interior streams have hybridized with Dolly Varden,

Primary Information Source:
McPhail, J.D. 2007. The Freshwater Fishes of British Columbia. University of Alberta Press. Edmonton, Alberta.