Wild Arctic Char

(Salvelinus Alpinus): WILD

WILD ARCTIC CHAR HAILS FROM NUNAVUT, CANADA a few degrees north of the Arctic Circle. For centuries, the Native Inuit people have hand-caught these fish to feed their families – until its value was “discovered” by restaurateurs here in the U.S. Introduced commercially in 2008, this wonderful wild fish is in the highest demand when available – which unfortunately for American diners lasts only 6-8 weeks out of the year!

Victoria Island is located within the Nunavut District, fed by waters of the Arctic Ocean and Baffin Bay. The waters near the town of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island have long been known to the Inuits as Ikaluktutiak –“Place of Good Fishing”.  Spending the warm summer months feeding, the char migrate to the freshwater lakes in the fall and stay over winter. The prime fishing season typically starts in mid-August and ends just before mid-September when the rivers and lakes start to freeze over.  Prior to the opening, fishermen disperse to multiple camps to prepare for harvests.

Different camps harvest their catch in different ways. At some camps, a small team of fishermen live in small huts, net fishing along the shoreline. At others, an ancient method of fishing called a ‘weir’ is used. A weir is an underwater fence that is set up in a V-shape. It comes in from two sides in a channel, directing the fish into a catch basin. A weir is one of the best methods of catching fish. It allows them to swim freely into the area, causing very little stress and thus a better quality of fish. This is a method that has been passed down to many fishers by their forefathers for a millennia. At all camps, the fish are immediately cleaned on stainless steel tables that are set up at the water’s edge. The chilly arctic air adds to the pristine quality of the fish. Multiple times a day, float planes haul back the day’s catch to the processing plant in Cambridge Bay – and out to the lower 48.

Wild Char, while the same species as the farmed Arctic Char, is noticeably different from its farm-raised brother: larger in size, the fish themselves have a lighter coloring of the skin – and flesh. The intensely cold waters they live in increases their fat and oil content. This results in a firmer texture and more complex flavor. Pure of contaminants and living on only a natural diet, these fish are high in healthy Omega 3 oils, and are the epitome of a healthy, sustainable, and flavorful seafood choice. Prepare as you would any char, trout or salmon dish. Wild Nunavut Char are typically 8-10 lbs each. Expect Limited Availability even when “in season”.

Catch Region: Nunavut, Canada

Seasonality: Mid Summer – Late Fall

Catch Method: Weir Nets, Small Gill Nets

Yield  (Fillet Percentage): 75%

Flavor Profile: Pronounced, Rich, Clean

Texture Profile: Medium Firm

Substitute:

  • Farm-Raised Char
  • Trout
  • Wild Salmon