Dolly Varden char have returned to the waters off our homestead. This means the season of easy fish dinners has returned!
Identified by the pink spots on their backs and named for the character in Charles Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge known for her similarly spotted dress, Dollies are one of our favorite fish. When we lived in Juneau, I came home from a fishing trip with a few Dollies instead of the king salmon I’d been targeting. After making a dinner of them, Michelle told me that as far as she was concerned, I could focus my effort on them, rather than kings.
We usually start catching Dollies in May, and continue through most of the summer. Once they start biting, we’re almost guaranteed a meal every time we fish. They are voracious feeders; I’ve caught some that have already crammed themselves full of fry. They also offer good sport, fighting pretty fiercely for their size. I love to fish on clear water days, when I can watch them chase the lure. Sometimes, they bite too well. Often I’ll watch a large Dolly pass at the lure, only to have it snatched away by a fingerling. By the time I get the little one released, the fish I wanted will have disappeared.
We could eat Dollies year ’round in our area. A lot of people ice fish for them in local lakes. For us, it makes more sense to bide our time and wait for them to come to us. That saves the time, effort, and expense of going out to the lakes, and gives us fresher meals without need to preserve the catch.