Redfin Pickerel fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The Redfin pickerel also known as grass pickerel, little pickerel, and barred pickerel is a very popular for they active fighting sport fish even it is a very small size. Redfin pickerel hit well in the winter months, and even through the ice. Pickerel will savagely attack schools of baitfish, or individuals, whatever is the easiest prey at the time. The best locations for Redfin 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.
Redfin pickerel - Esox americanus, is a species of
freshwater fish in the
pike family Esocidae. It is also known as: grass pickerel, mud pickerel, little pickerel, banded pickerel, redfinned pike and barred pickerel. The redfin pickerel is an Atlantic Coast form, its range extending from New York south to eastern drainages in Georgia and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The cheeks and gill covers on the redfin pickerel are fully scaled, while the top of the head has few if any scales. A darkened vertical bar beneath the eye slants slightly backward. In cross section, the body is oval or cigar-shaped. The back is dark green to brown. Color patterns on the sides are variable, from a green-and-white reticulate pattern resembling that of a brick wall to green, forward-slanting vertical bars. Along the lower sides, fingerlike green projections extend downward and forward onto a cream or yellow venter.
Redfin Pickerel can at times reach weights in excess of 1 pound throughout the vast majority of its range in the south they are restricted to sizes of 4 to 15 inches (38 cm). Elongate body. They colored dark olive to brown above, with lighter sides, with dark greenish-yellow to brown wavy bars; dark bar under eye slopes down and back; fins reddish, without dark spots. Head long; snout short, with straight profile; 4 sensory pores on each side of lower jaw; 11–13 (usually 12) branchiostegal rays. Cheek and opercle fully scaled. Lateral line complete, with 97–118 scales.
Redfin pickerels have 15 to 36 dark, wavy, vertical bars and reddish-orange lower fins. Otherwise the coloration is similar to that of chain pickerels. There is a dark, backward-slanting bar below the eye. The snout is shorter and broader than that of a chain pickerel. Normally there are 11 to 13 branchiosstegal rays on the underside of the lower jaw. The cheek and gill covers are completely scaled.
This species grows much slower than other members of the
pike family. The maximum age is about 8 years, but the usual life span is 7years. There is little difference in growth between males and females, although females live longer. Redfin pickerels rarely exceed 12 inches long.
Habitat and Habits
Redfin pickerel usually occur in clear
streams having slow to moderate currents and abundant aquatic vegetation or undercut banks, in swamps and isolated overflow pools of rivers. The young occur in schools, but adults are solitary, aggressive predators. An individual will lie motionless along the edge of aquatic vegetation or an undercut bank for long periods. When unsuspecting prey appears, the fish darts out, grasps the prey, and swallows it head first. Large insect larvae, crayfishes, and fishes are staples of the adult diet. Redfin pickerel live to 6 years;
Grass Pickerel reach 7 years.
Redfin often inhabit brooks and slow-moving rivers. Although most of the specimens that I have seen were in small brooks, I have recently noticed them at the edges of large rivers, hiding under suspended logs or in the crevices of rock piles. They can be seen busting out of their hiding place as one walks along the shoreline. In smaller streams, while wading, I often see them leave small pools as I approach. Their initial movement, at least when startled, is a sudden burst along the surface. They would be eaten by larger predatory fish in these habitats, or would have difficulty competing with the larger predatory fish, such as their cousin the
Chain Pickerel, that are often found there. In streams and slow rivers however, they are often abundant.
Small fish make up most of their diet, but they also eat aquatic insects and various other invertebrates.
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 52°F. 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 3 to 4 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.
These pickerel are scrappy fighters, but their small size limits their popularity as sport fish. They can be caught on minnows, streamers, small spinners, spoons and plugs. Redfin pickerel are a lot of fun to catch on light spinning tackle.
The most effective method of using a minnow trap for redfin is to place the trap in a location where a fur trapper would place a trap for beaver or otter. That is, locate a narrow passageway in the stream through which any fish traveling upstream or downstream would need to pass, an opening between two rocks for example, where the water is a foot deep or less and fast moving. If all other paths are blocked or difficult to pass through, then a minnow trap carefully place in this opening will be extremely effective. I often raise the trap slightly by placing some small flat rocks underneath the trap. This will bring the trap closer to the surface where redfin often travel. The trap may need to be left for several days. I have found that often all the pickerel in an area will relocate at once, often after a rainfall, filling traps placed in this method.
You can also try a small red rooster tail, retrieving the lure fairly rapid along the edges of vegetation and downed trees.
Fish a small (1/8-1/16) white rooster tail about 1-2" below the surface. Use a medium-fast retrieve, because the fish have a habit of following the lure before biting it. Fish them under bridges, across trees, and along steep banks. However, bend the barbs down (pickerel have a habit of getting the hook stuck deep in their throat, and if you try to remove it, it could kill them.)