6, Vernadsky Avenue
Capitoly Business Center (Regus),
Moscow 119311 Russia

Neiva or red char (Salvelinus neiva)

This is brightly colored lake-resident char; there are no anadromous or river-resident stocks of this species. The scientific description of the neiva char was made on the fish from the Ueginskoe and Korral Lakes of the Okhota River drainage. Similar red char live on the north coast of the Sea of Okhotsk in many clear mountainous lakes in the basins of the Okhota, Inya, Ola, and Nayakhan Rivers.

There are various forms of this char, including dwarf fish which become mature at small sizes. Some lakes are home to several outwardly different forms of char, which diverge in the diet peculiarities.

During the spawning period (fall), this char looks bright red (in some lakes, orange or yellow) with small blue dots on its sides. Back, dorsal, and caudal fins are brown, other fins are red with white first fin rays. The spawning occurs in lakes and not in the outlets or tributaries. In some lakes, the mature fish beyond the spawning time become silver, but in most waters they keep reduced spawning coloration the whole year round.

In many waters where the neiva is dwelling, there are spawning grounds of anadromous sockeye salmon. It is possible that the red color of this char is a kind of camouflage. Perhaps the color similarities with spawning salmon allow it to feed on their eggs with impunity.

Similar red char are also found in many lakes of the Polar Sea basin — both in the forest zone and in tundra — in the drainages of the Indigirka, Chukochya, and Kolyma Rivers (they belong to a different species – the Chersky char). On the Kamchatka Peninsula there are several lakes with resident “neiva-like” chars. The colors of these fish are yellow or orange. The most known of these lakes is the Nachikinskoe Lake at the source of the Plotnikova River, and the Kopilie Lake (Icha River drainage).

In big waters with enough food, neiva can grow up to 2–3 kg, but in most lakes they only reach 0.8–1.3 kg. Red char grow rather slowly — a 500-g fish can be nine to twelve years old. In some waters there is also a dwarf, very slow-growing lake-resident form.

Ilya Sherbovich