Chain pickerel

Chain pickerel
Chain pickerel
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae
Genus: Esox
Species: E. niger
Binomial name
Esox niger
Lesueur, 1818

The chain pickerel, Esox niger (syn. Esox reticulatus), is a species of freshwater fish in the pike family (family Esocidae) of order Esociformes. The chain pickerel as well as the trout pickerel and the grass pickerel belong to the Esox genus of pikes.[1]



Its range is along the eastern coast of North America from southern Canada to Florida, and west to Texas. On the Atlantic Coast, in Maine and New Brunswick, the chain pickerel extend as far as 46 degrees north latitude. The fish inhabits freshwater from the Mississippi Valley into southern Wisconsin. It also is commonly found in Lake Michigan and the lower portion of the Great Lakes.[1]

Other names

It is also known as the "federation pike" or "federation pickerel". Pickerel is often a name given to walleye, although the true name belongs to the chain pickerel. Common nicknames in the southeastern United States are the "southern pike" and "jack fish".

Physical description

The chain pickerel has a distinctive dark chain-like pattern on its greenish sides. Its body outline resembles that of the northern pike. May reach up to 30 inches only on rare occasions. The opercles and cheeks of the fish are entirely scaled.[1]

The average size for chain pickerel, however, is 24 inches and 3 pounds. (The average chain pickerel caught by fishermen is under 2 pounds). The world record is 9 pounds, 6 ounces.


The chain pickerel feeds primarily on smaller fish which it ambushes from cover with a rapid lunge and secures with its sharp teeth. It will also sometimes eat amphibians.It is not unusual for pickerel to leap out of the water at flying insects, or even at dangling fishing lures.


The chain pickerel is a popular sport fish. It is an energetic fighter when hooked. Anglers have success with live minnows, spinnerbaits, spoons, plugs, and flies, usually tied with some kind of feather or bucktail material.

If the angler intends to release a fish, it is advisable use pliers to flatten the barbs on the lure's hooks. Chain pickerel can swallow an entire lure, so it will be much easier to free a deeply-hooked fish and get it back into the water as soon as possible.

Practically any bass lure can be effective for pickerel, although like most pikes they seem to be particularly susceptible to flashy lures which imitate small forage fish. Dragging a plastic worm, lizard, frog, or other soft imitation can also be extremely effective.

A steel leader is necessary for sharp-toothed and active fish sizing two to three pounds. The angler would also do well to use 12 to 17-lb. test line on an open-face spinning reel.

Methods are similar to those for bass such as dragging a lure through weeds in shallow water and jerking it side-to-side to give it the look of injured prey. Chain pickerel are voracious and opportunistic feeders and will attack most any fodder that moves into their range of vision.


Chain pickerel are considered good eating by many, but due to many small bones preparing the fish can be difficult. However, the meat is very white and flakey with a good mild flavor as the pickerel is a lean fish (not being oily such as salmon or trout).

Like all pike, the chain is big, but for the table the angler must clean them properly to remove the many small bones. To do so, gut the fish when it is landed to prevent body fluids from contaminating the meat. Keep the fish cool until you bring it home (in most places a game/conservation officer must be able to readily determine the size and weight of a fish). Place the fish on a cutting board and with a sharp flexible knife cut along one side of the fish at the back bone. There are bones that run along the back bone and will be easily avoidable after you begin the cut, and should also be easy to realize and avoid with future cuts. Now cut the meat off the rib cage by gently running the tip of the knife length wise across the ribs and pulling the meat away. When you get about a quarter of the way down begin to slice the meat off the tail in the same manner. Do Not cut the fillet off completely until you have cut the opposite side. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the fish after having gutted it and before cooking it.


  1. ^ a b c Pike, Pickerel and Muskalonge, Alfred C. Weed, Zoology Leaflet 9, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, 1927, pg. 19.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • chain pickerel — noun common in quiet waters of eastern United States • Syn: ↑chain pike, ↑Esox niger • Hypernyms: ↑pickerel * * * noun also chain pike : a large greenish black pickerel ( …   Useful english dictionary

  • chain pickerel — juodoji lydeka statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Esox niger angl. castern pickerel; chain pickerel rus. полосатая щука; чёрная щука ryšiai: platesnis terminas – lydekos …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • chain pickerel — noun Etymology: from the markings resembling chains on the sides Date: 1887 a large greenish black pickerel (Esox niger) with dark markings along the sides that is common in quiet waters of eastern North America …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • chain pickerel. — See under pickerel (def. 1). [1900 05, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • chain pickerel. — See under pickerel (def. 1). [1900 05, Amer.] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Pickerel — Pick er*el, n. [Dim. of {Pike}.] [Written also {pickerell}.] 1. A young or small pike. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Bet [better] is, quoth he, a pike than a pickerel. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] 2. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) Any one of several species of freshwater… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pickerel weed — Pickerel Pick er*el, n. [Dim. of {Pike}.] [Written also {pickerell}.] 1. A young or small pike. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Bet [better] is, quoth he, a pike than a pickerel. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] 2. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) Any one of several species of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pickerel — /pik euhr euhl, pik reuhl/, n., pl. (esp. collectively) pickerel, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) pickerels. 1. any of several small species of pike, as Esox niger (chain pickerel) and E. americanus americanus (redfin pickerel),… …   Universalium

  • chain pike — noun common in quiet waters of eastern United States • Syn: ↑chain pickerel, ↑Esox niger • Hypernyms: ↑pickerel * * * noun see chain pickerel …   Useful english dictionary

  • pickerel — /ˈpɪkərəl/ (say pikuhruhl) noun (plural pickerels, pickerel) any of various species of pike, especially one of the smaller species, as the chain pickerel, Esox niger, and the mud pickerel, Esox vermiculatus. {Middle English pykerel, from pike1 +… …   Australian English dictionary

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