Grass Pickerel fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Grass pickerel are the smallest member of the pike family. They are often found in small slow moving streams with clear water and dense aquatic vegetation. The Grass Pickerel, Esox americanus vermiculatus, is a subspecies of redfin pickerel, Esox americanus. It is a member of the Pike family (Esocidae) and shares the prominent features typical of this distinctive group: a long, rather cylindrical body with dorsal and anal fins located well back towards a forked tail; a long snout; and a large mouth with well-armed teeth.
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.
Grass pickerel - Esox americanus vermiculatus, also known as Grass Pike is the smallest member of the
Pike family Esocidae which includes
Chain Pickerel and
Redfin Pickerel. In North America, natural populations of the Grass Pickerel are found west of the Appalachian Mountains, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to the south, north central Nebraska to the west, and the St. Lawrence River system near Montreal, Quebec to the north and east. Introduced populations can be found as far north and west as the State of Washington and as far east as Maryland. In Canada, the Grass Pickerel occurs in Ontario and Quebec.
The grass pickerel, like other pike species, has a long tubular shaped body. They have a dark tear drop under their eye and a light colored stripe against a darker background down the center of their back. They have a pattern of blotches or vertical lines on their side. Grass pickerel can be distinguished from
Northern Pike or
Muskellunge by their lack of spots or dark markings on their fins.
Chain Pickerel differ by having a chain like pattern of large oblong spots on their side. Long, slender body; snout resembles duck bill; color green to olive-brown above, wavy or worm-like bars on sides and light beneath.
It is a member of the Pike family and shares the prominent features typical of this distinctive group: a long, rather cylindrical body with dorsal and anal fins located well back towards a forked tail; a long snout; and a large mouth with well-armed teeth.
Body robust, long, cylindrical, cross-section almost circular with flattened to slightly concave dorsal surface. Head large, flat, naked on top. Right branchiostegal membrane usually overlaps left. Snout short, broad spatulate, dorsal surface between raised orbits and tip of snout slightly concave. Mouth large, horizontal, lower jaw extending slightly beyond upper, maxillary usually not reaching beyond middle of pupil or to suborbital bar. Teeth moderately large, those in front of upper jaw and several along each side of ramus a little enlarged; cheek and opercle fully scaled. Gill rakers are reduced to patches of sharp denticles. Cardioid scales between pelvic fins 0-5, intergrades 0-26; notched scales in a line between dorsal and anal fin origins 0-8, intergrades 1-22.
The adult Grass Pickerel has a uniform olivaceous pale to dark green upper surface with a rusty brown stripe down the back, and several thin, dark, wavy vertical bars on the sides. The fins are dusky to amber in colour with black leading edges. The iris is yellow. Belly pale amber to white, sometimes mottled wit dark; mid-dorsal band from nape to dorsal fin origin inconspicuous, rusty brown. Sides with 15-23 olive to black wavy vertical bars separated by paler extensions of what had been lateral band in young, pale area between adjacent bars wider than bars. Suborbital and preorbital black bars pronounced, suborbital straight and vertical, postorbital horizontal; lateral edges of jaws lightly pigmented. Pupil yellow to yellow green, iris gold. Dorsal fin darkly pigmented, leading edge of all fins black, remainder dusky to amber.
Habitat and Habits
Grass pickerel are most common in clear waters with an abundance of dense aquatic vegetation. They can be found in slow moving streams, permanent wetlands, and natural lakes. They are intolerant of turbidity (muddy water) and areas that have been extensively channalized or ditched for drainage purposes. Slow moving, heavily vegetated areas of larger lakes and rivers. Large populations of the Grass Pickerel occur in wetlands with warm, shallow water and an abundance of aquatic plants. This fish is a top predator and hunts by sight, either stalking or ambushing its preferred prey; young fish usually prey on insects, while adults target other fish. The adult Grass Pickerel is usually less than 30 cm long, which distinguishes it from the much larger adults of its near relatives. Juveniles, however, are frequently misidentified because they are less distinctive in appearance and can be the same size as the juveniles of other species.
They are a predator that feeds on large insect larvae, crayfishes and other fishes. This fish does not move a great deal to hunt for food. Instead it camouflages itself and waits for unsuspecting prey. When it has the prey located, it will dart out of hiding quickly, grasp the prey and swallow it head first. Newly hatched larvae feed on larvae of later spawning species.
Grass pickerel spawn in the spring when water temperatures range from 43 to 53 degrees Fahrenheit. They migrate upstream, sometimes long distances, in search of shallow backwaters with dense vegetation. Grass Pickerel reach sexual maturity at the age of 2-3 years and spawn in Ontario from late March to early May, although a second period of spawning may occur from late summer into winter. The maximum age known for the Grass Pickerel is 7 years. The act of spawning occurs with one female and several males. Eggs and milt are ejected by sudden lashings of the caudal fin.
Eggs are broadcast over aquatic vegetation, moss, leaves, twigs, and in temporary floodplains, marshes and shallow pools. They don't provide parental care for the young. The incubation period of the eggs lasts from 11 to 15 days, longer incubation is needed for eggs to mature in colder water. The young feed on insect larvae and other aquatic invertebrates until they are large enough to switch over to feeding on small fish. This usually occurs in early June when they reach a length of about two inches.