Arctic charr populations in southern latitudes are nonmigratory, with all life-stages limited to freshwater lakes and in- or out-flowing tributaries. Although many of these populations are reported to also spawn in lake littorals, little is known about the physical characteristics of putative spawning grounds. A total of 23 discrete spawning sites within three Irish lakes were located by fyke netting of spawning adults and snorkelling in littoral habitats. Spawning sites were found to be long, narrow strips running parallel to the shore at a maximum depth of 124 cm. Spawning sites were limited to areas of coarse mineral substrate with an adequate (c. 8 cm) depth of clean interstitial spaces. In individual lakes, combined areas of spawning sites made up 0.4-0.7% of available littoral. Egg densities varied considerably between sites (33-900 eggs m(-2)) and were significantly correlated with gradient and width of spawning sites. No evidence of redd digging was found. The shallow, localised and restricted nature of spawning grounds makes such populations vulnerable to anthropogenically induced postoviposition changes in surface water level, eutrophication processes such as increased lake sedimentation and elevated nutrient status.