Chain Pickerel

A chain pickerel shows its razor sharp teeth.
A chain pickerel shows its razor sharp teeth.

Chain Pickerel


Chain pickerel are attractive freshwater fish of North America. They are members of the pike family, which includes musky, northern pike, chain pickerel and other species.

Of the three members of the pike family that are sought after by anglers, chain pickerel are the smallest. They reach a length of 3 feet and weigh up to 7 lbs.

Chain pickerel are recognized by a vertical black bar which extends downward from each eye. Their sides are marked with a unique pattern of camouflage which is said to resemble chain links.

These markings consist of light tan to yellowish lines on a dark green background, which helps to conceal these fish in their favorite habitat.

Chain pickerel are ambush predators, hiding among aquatic vegetation or around obstructions where forage fish are found. They attack their prey in a lightning fast strike, holding tightly with razor sharp teeth.

Unlike many fish, pickerel bite well during the cooler months. Winter chain pickerel fishing techniques require a slower presentation, but the results can be worth the chilly time on the water.

The chain-link pattern is visible on this small pickerel.
The chain-link pattern is visible on this small pickerel.

Chain Pickerel Identification

The chain pickerel can be distinguished from northern pike and Muskies by its prominent chain-like markings on a green background. Chain pickerel can also be identified by their fully scaled cheek and gill cover, which differs from pike and musky.

A variety of chain pickerel artwork is available online. This Women's Chain Pickerel T Shirt is one of several pickerel collectibles that are featured on this fish_fishing_seafood online store.

Pickerel Lures

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Other Names for Chain Pickerel

Depending on location, chain pickerel may also be called:

 - southern pike

 - jack fish

 - federation pike

 - federation pickerel.

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Comments 2 comments

LindaJM profile image

LindaJM 6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

I can see I'll learn a lot about fish by reading your lenses! I have one question. Are these fish found mainly on the east coast?


daybreak profile image

daybreak 6 years ago from Atlantic Coast of North America Author

Yes, The chain pickerel's original range was limited to Atlantic and Gulf Coast estuaries, but has been introduced elsewhere by anglers. They are often stocked in lakes and small ponds where they can become a top level predator.

Chain pickerel are smaller in size but behave in much the same way as their larger northern cousins; the northern pike and muskellunge (musky).

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