Where to Fish for Arctic Char in Scotland
Arctic Char are sparsely distributed throughout Scotland in some of the high hill lochs or in our larger deep lochs where there is cold water suited to their needs. In such cold water environments food is scarce and growth is slow, the maximum size of individuals in a natural population would be about 25cm irrespective of age. The most northerly population is in Loch Girlsta while the most southerly population is in Loch Doon, the char in both lochs are protected by a conservation designation.
Char in Scotland have become completely landlocked having no inclination to migrate, even where it is possible for them to do so, resulting in individual populations being totally isolated since their entry into fresh water after the last ice age.
This isolation has produced over 200 distinct populations in Scotland. It has been found that individual populations are changing, 'morhping' becoming or have become distinct subspecies.
Studies of char have discovered some interesting differences within populations. In Loch Ericht it was found that there are two very distinct types, a coloured fish that feeds on zooplanton, planktivorous, and a pale fish that feeds on fish, piscivorous. This differentiation might have a bearing on the tactics employed to catch the fish e.g. trawling a dead bait such as a small trout for the piscivorous char. Reports are that the piscivorous fish are the better eating, the plantkivorous fish being pale fleshed and bland. Up to the age of 8 the planktivorous fish are larger than the fish eaters but from 9 onwards the fish eaters outgrow their counterparts. In Loch Rannoch some fish have even been found to be hermaphrodite, a curious fish indeed.
There are fears that global warming might have an adverse affect on Scottish char should water temperatures in our lochs rise. Char eggs must have temperatures below 7 degrees C to develop while deep water crustaceans, a key source of food for char, might die off.
Although Char distribution is sparse, where they are found there can be very good populations of fish. Having said all of the above I urge restraint when fishing for Char as they are unique and endangered.
On Loch Garry where there are commercial fish rearing cages the char have taken advantage of the excess fish feed and have grown to quite an exceptional size.