Name: Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma)
Location: Coastal waters extending from Puget Sound to the Arctic Sea, and also in Northern Japan
Size: Can grow over 30 inches long and weigh over 27 pounds
Interested in: Whoever wants to fertilize my eggs after I lay them
I’m a Dolly Varden trout, not to be confused with an Arctic Char or a bull trout. Until 1978, everyone thought I was a bull trout, but then some smart scientist found out that though we’re closely related, we’re actually different species.
I am anadromous and monogamous, meaning I spawn in fresh water and once I lay my eggs in a gravel bed, multiple males will fertilize them.
I am carnivorous, and I really like catching bugs. Salmon eggs are even better, when I can find them. Unfortunately, sometimes I see something that looks like a tasty bite to eat, and it turns out to be one of those nasty fishermen.
I’m a fairly slow grower. It takes me five to six years to reach maturity, and after that I can live to be eight to 16 years old. I can spawn more than once in my lifetime, but it’s a lot of work. I don’t usually do it more than three times.
After I hatch, I spent two to four years in freshwater before going out to sea. Then in the winter, I come back to the freshwater.
I don’t really have any enemies. The Arctic Char and bull trout are bigger bullies than I am. In terms of feeding, some call me a scavenger. I don’t hunt baby salmon like similar species do, even though they are tasty at times.
Humans really like to eat me when they can catch me. Back in 1921, for about 20 years there was a bounty on my head, er, tail. The US Bureau of Fisheries wanted to control my population because they thought I was being too much of a predator to salmon. They paid people for each of my tails that they brought in. However, they discovered that people were bringing in salmon and rainbow trout tails more often than they brought in my tails, so the bounty was abandoned.
So I guess if you see me, I won’t be too sad if you decide to eat me instead of just saying hi. After all, I am pretty delicious.