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White char (Salvelinus albus)

This char species looks similar to the Dolly Varden; it is the most numerous in the Kamchatka River basin. On the Kamchatka peninsula there are both migratory and resident stocks of this char. Compared to Dolly Varden char, this is a predatory species, distinguished by a large head with developed teeth.

This char species is not recognized by all scientists. On its sides there are the same small and numerous red dots. Compared to Dolly Varden, white char have bigger heads with a convex forehead, and their teeth are better developed. The spawning coloration of this fish in Chistoe Lake is gray-violet with a yellow or pink belly, not the typical Dolly Varden green and bright red colors.

Anadromous white char are found only in the Kamchatka River. On the mainland coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, white char are landlocked, inhabiting some lakes situated on plains near Magadan. Local fishermen call this fish lake malma or top.

The white char is a predatory char; its diet consists mostly of small fish. It preys on pond smelt, sticklebacks, minnows, and salmon fry. A rather numerous lake-resident stock of white char was found in big Azabachie Lake (Lower Kamchatka River) – so called “predators”. This population is sympatric with the resident Dolly Varden char (so called “mollusk-eaters”).

One of the resident populations of white char lives in the Kronotskoye – the largest fresh water body in Kamchatka; large specimens of a species weighing up to 5 kilograms are found here.

We should also mention the «stone char»: this rare fish is found only in the drainage of the Kamchatka River. This fish is very colorful; it has big and bright pink or crimson dots on black-and-purple sides. The stone chars are common in the Elovka River drainage (left tributary of the Kamchatka River). Some scientists believe that stone char is the river-resident form of white char. There are similarly-looking resident chars in the Chistoe Lake near Magadan (the mainland coast of the Sea of Okhotsk). These chars resemble stone char by both coloration and feeding habits.

Stone char are listed in the Red Book of Kamchatka; if caught it should be released unharmed.

Ilya Sherbovich