It has silver skin with shades of blue and green and whitish-orange spots on its back. The skin is pinkish on its underside, turning orange-red as the fish gets ready to spawn. The lower fins are orange trimmed with white.
Like salmon in its habits, Arctic char lives in salt water, but returns to fresh water to breed. Some Arctic char, though, is landlocked in fresh water in the Arctic. Unlike salmon, char doesn’t stop eating once it returns to fresh water, as salmon do, and it doesn’t die after spawning.
An Arctic char can live up to 25 years in the wild and grow up to 25 pounds (11 kg.)
Normally wild Arctic char are caught at 5 to 10 pounds (2 ¼ to 4 ½ kg.) They are now also being farmed; farmed Arctic char will weigh 2 to 6 pounds (1 to 2 ¾ kg.) In the lake districts in England, particularly Lake Windermere, they will only grow to about 10 inches (25 cm) long and weigh about 10 oz (275 g.)
The colour of the flesh will vary from dark red to pale pink depending on what it has eaten. The flavour is between that of salmon and trout. The flesh cooks up firm but flaky.
Arctic char are very popular in Norway with sports fishermen, because it puts up a strong fight.
In the lake districts of England, it is usually served in pies or potted.
The Inuit used to use its tough skin to make waterproof coats.
Remove skin from Arctic char before eating because the skin gets tough when cooked
Literature & Lore
“But, scholar, there is a fish that they in Lancashire boast very much of, called a CHAR; taken there, and I think there only, in a mere called Winander Mere; a mere, says Camden, that is the largest in this nation, being ten miles in length, and some say as smooth in the bottom as if it were paved with polished marble. This fish never exceeds fifteen or sixteen inches in length; and is spotted like a Trout: and has scarce a bone, but on the back. But this, though I do not know whether it make the angler sport, yet I would have you take notice of it, because it is a rarity, and of so high esteem with persons of great note.” — Walton, Izaak (1593-1683.) The Compleat Angler. Published 1653.