Fishing in Iceland – Arctic Char

The Arctic char (Salvelinus Alpinus) can be found in both lakes and rivers all over Iceland. The char is the most widespread freshwater species in Iceland and can range from a half a pound up to over 10 pounds with the biggest one ever caught in Iceland 22 pounds. The char has a very similar diet as the resident brown trout and pretty much the same tactics apply. The char prefers slower and colder water than the brown trout so usually the two do not share stream lies.

fishing char 5Char can be found in the rivers that you’d normally not think to find fish like the cold run off rivers of the northwest, west and east fjords as well as some glacial rivers. In the east and weast the mountains are high and steep with old, hard rock so the run off water simply runs on top of the rock, with a fast drop so it does not have time to pick up any nutrients and minerals from the rock or any vegetation on the river banks. Thus these rivers are usually cold, fast and low in nutrients. The char can endure these kinds of conditions and in fact like the colder water.

For the past few years it seems the char stocks are declining in Iceland. Some scientists I’ve talked to have a theory that the water temperature in Iceland is rising. That suits the trout and salmon and would explain the rise in those stocks and decline of the char stocks. I don’t have scientific reference for that but it’s one theory. Personally I also think that because the char tastes so wonderful, people are reluctant to release caught char. So we at Iceland Angling Travel would like you to consider this when char fishing in Iceland and only take one per person or better yet – none!

For reasons unknown the Arctic char seem to prefer flashy colors and so pink, orange or even purple streamers have worked well. Nymphs that have a black body and a red tag or tail have also worked like a charm. This fish sure is mysterious at times and a wonderful fish to catch. They fight like there is no tomorrow and have enormous stamina pound for pound. The char is loved by many and here in Iceland we have an abundance of the char despite decreasing stocks.

Sea Run Arctic char

fishing char 6

The sea char is the sea run variation of the arctic char. It is usually a bit more streamlined in shape then it’s resident relative and the sea char is an amazing fighter so anglers better have plenty of backing available when fishing for sea char. I’ve had clients fishing for sea char in estuaries close to the sea, hook big ones and see them run off back to sea without being able to do a thing about it.

The sea char comes up rivers with the tide and goes back out with it as well most of the year but the fishing season is from April 1. through October. The bigger ones start migrating upstream from mid June through August to spawn in the freshwater. It’s usually more silver than the residents and when they are fresh from the sea really give you a fight of your life.

The tactics used when targeting sea char at the mouth of rivers are special to say the least and some of the most exciting used in fishing. A 4-5 pound sea char fresh from the sea will make your reel scream and certainly give you a run for your money. The fish tend to follow your fly very close in so one tactic used with streamers is to make your cast, let the fly sink a little bit and then start the retrieve. The trick is to increase the rate of stripping until you are stripping as fast as you can and then you can expect the fierce take.

Sea char are hard to catch and also very hard to land once you’ve hooked them. The reason is they fight like crazy and wiggle so much on the end of your line that if the hook is not set tight enough they’ll simply wiggle free.

Arctic char fishing in Iceland

For more information on the lakes and rivers that have Arctic char fishing please follow the below links:

Brunna River