It’s an identification mystery, campers! Let’s play! [Note: an update is at the bottom of this post.]
This is the one and only photograph I managed to snag of this small fish –likely a member of Family Salmonidae– at the base of Symphony and Eagle Lakes in South Fork Eagle River Valley on 08 August 2010. Just west –downstream– of those two lakes, there’s a small and stable body of water which then, in turn, flows into the actual stream that runs down the valley to ultimately meet up with Eagle River proper. If memory serves, this small pond (which will be featured in the next post featuring a beaver) seemed to be dominantly fed by the glacial Eagle Lake, though I have little doubt Symphony Lake connects somehow as well. That’s where this photograph was taken — on the edge of this body of water at the base of Symphony and Eagle Lakes.
A few days ago, I posted this photograph to Facebook for identification tips from Alaskan friends and such. So far, the identifications are leaning toward either cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii, or dolly varden, Salvelinus malma. Right now, I lean toward dolly varden, but not for any scientific or knowledgeable reasons. It’s simply a less threatening name. Heh. (Science, yo!)
Truth be told, I don’t know much about the bony fish. Having grown up on the shores of Volusia county, Florida, I’m pretty good with sharks and rays, but when it comes to bony fish I’m pretty far out to sea — without a compass, a star map, or even a sail. You’d think after spending four years in Alaska, I would’ve taken the salmon/trout bait and learned a little something about this family of fish… But alas, not so much. I’m moderately comfortable with a few of the larger species, but still mostly unsure. At least I think I can identify the Family, right? (Small steps, Ellie. Small steps.)
I’ve got two more posts (or so) lined up for South Fork Eagle River Valley and then I do believe we’ll launch into a Salmonidae-of-Alaska micro series featuring a number of fish I managed to photograph but haven’t quite identified conclusively. There are some cool photos in that batch. It’ll be fun getting back to them.
So, post your comments and let me know what you think this is! Salmon? Trout? What species? Whaddaya think?
If consensus is met, I’ll tag this post accordingly and add a textual update. Kudos and thanks to Carolyn in Alaska for taking the mission to Those-Who-Know on her end. It’s very much appreciated!
UPDATE AT 11:57 AM on FRIDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2012: It sounds like the dolly varden trout is the big winner. Courtesy my friend Carolyn in Anchorage, we’ve got two bio profs and one marine bio student in agreement that this is a dolly varden. Mystery solved! Of course, if you’ve got a contrary opinion, bring it on! This is not, after all, a fantastic reference photo to work from…