Chain Pickerel fish, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The chain pickerel also known as Southern Pike and Jack Fish is a very popular for they active fighting sport fish. Chain Pickerel hit well in the winter months, and even through the ice. They usually cruise the same areas as other gamefish such as largemouth bass, crappies, yellow perch, and other panfish. Pickerel will savagely attack schools of baitfish, or individuals, whatever is the easiest prey at the time. The best locations for Chain Pickerel in the winter is along points, with drop-offs near deeper water, and areas that contain some underwater cover and vegetation nearby.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
Its range is along the eastern United States and Canada, from Nova Scotia through all of the Atlantic coast states and most of Florida, and westward through Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana to eastern Texas. From Louisiana, it extends northward in the Mississippi River drainage through eastern Arkansas to southeastern Missouri and southwestern Kentucky.
Chain Pickerel - Esox niger, is a species of freshwater fish in the pike family Esocidae. It is also known as: Black Chain Pike, Duck-billed Pike, Eastern Chain Pickerel, Eastern Pickerel, Federation Pike or Federation Pickerel, Green Pike, Lake Pickerel, Mud Pickerel, Picquerelle, Reticulated Pickerel. Common nicknames in the southeastern United States are the Southern Pike and Jack Fish.
The Chain Pickerel have elongate and compacted body shape. The dorsal and anal fins are set well back on the body and are equally rounded. The dorsal fin is highly arched, with rounded corners, begins far back, in the middle between the mid-base of the caudal fin and the foot of the pelvic fin. The caudal fin is a bit divided, with bluntly pointed lobes. The body is fully scaled, while on the head only the cheeks and gill covers are scaled. The scales are curved. The Northern Pike usually has no scales on the bottom half of the gill covers, and the
Muskellunge usually has no scales on the bottom half of either the gill cover or the cheek. The mouth is large and terminal, with hardly a surface that isnít armed with curved, needle like teeth. The lower jaw extended further forward than the upper jaw, it have four sensory holes on the underside. The underside of the lower jaw has 14-17 branchiostegal rays.
Chain pickerel are usually olive-green or yellowish-brown on the back and sides, shading to a creamy yellow on the belly. It has a dark reticulated or chain-like, pattern of black lines suggesting a chain on its back. There is a separate dark, vertical bar below the eye. During their first year they may reach 12-14 inches in length. Growth slows somewhat during the second year when they may attain lengths of 1.5 feet. The average size is 24 inches and 3 lbs but it can reach up to 36 inches in length and a weight of 10 lbs.
Habitat and Habits
The Chain Pickerel prefer quite calm areas in
rivers with lots of water vegetation. Similar to muskellunge, chain pickerel are lonely fish that often hide in aquatic vegetation where they are waiting for unsuspecting prey. They found in vegetated lakes, ponds and backwaters, and small to large rivers. They prefer water temperatures from 75 to 80 degrees. Usually Pickerel are around lily pads and in beds of grass, weed or other vegetation in ponds. Weeds are very important to its way of feeding. They donít travel searching for food unless the food is limited in the near area. The pickerel is waiting for its meal to swim by instead of going to look for it. This way it does not loose a lot of energy and uses more of the food for growth.
The Chain Pickerel feeds primarily on smaller fish which it ambushes from cover with a quick attack and secures with its sharp teeth. The young feed mostly on aquatic insects and crustaceans until they reach about 4 inches, when they starts feeding primarily of fish including also small mammals, snakes, frogs, and just about every other living creature including other pickerel.
In heavy vegetation the pickerel stays with its head facing deep water, in the shore areas that are free of heavy vegetation, the pickerel usually stays face to shoreward. They prefer cover of aquatic vegetation where they lie in wait and strike when unsuspecting prey swim their way.
Chain Pickerels are not nest builders. Spawning is occur between December and February, in late winter to spring among heavy aquatic weed growth or flooded grasses, in water from a few inches deep to several feet deep with water temperatures from 47 to 52įF. During spawning several males may escort one female. Large number of sticky and adhere eggs are deposited on aquatic vegetation and then fertilized. Hatching starts after 7 to 12 days, depending on water temperatures, and young attach to the vegetation by means of an adhesive gland on their snout.
There is no parental care is given to the eggs or fry. When the young hatch they feed on plankton, aquatic insects or even their own siblings. About three to four weeks after hatching when they reach about 4 inches the diet becomes almost entirely other fish. Some individuals that start fish diet earlier likely grow faster. They reach 6 inches in length by the end of the first summer, 14 inches in 3 years; 20 inches In 6 years. Sexual maturity is reached at age four or five.
The chain pickerel is a very popular sport fish. It is an active fighter when hooked. Fishing is usually best around lily pads or brush masses aquatic vegetation. Methods include dragging a lure through weeds in shallow water and jerking it side-to-side to make it look like injured, dying or escaping prey. Chain pickerel are voracious feeders and will attack any food that moves into their range.
Winter is mostly time for fishing for chain pickerel. It begins in the fall with the first real cold front and continues until April with warm water temperatures. Best baits are live minnows, spinner-baits, spoons, plugs, jigs, crank-baits and other flashy lures which imitate small forage fish, usually with some kind of spine or buck-tail material. Dragging a plastic worm, lizard, frog, or other soft imitation can also be extremely effective.
Chain Pickerels can be taken with medium action spinning rod,
fly fishing or
pole fishing gear. Almost any type of hardware will produce a strike. A wire steel leader is a must for these sharp-toothed fighting fish.