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Chain Pickerel

Chain Pickerel
(Esox niger)




Common Names – Pike, river pike, grass pike, jack, jackfish, eastern pickerel, chainsides, mud pickerel, black chain pike, duck-billed pike.

Description – Chain pickerels are deep olive-green on the back, shading to a creamy yellow on the belly. Olive green blotches are present within distinct black chain-like or interwoven markings on the sides. There is a distinct dark, vertical bar below the eye. The cheek and gill covers are completely covered by scales. The underside of the lower jaw has 14-17 branchiostegal rays.

Subspecies – There are no recognized subspecies. However, they hybridize readily with redfin pickerels.

Range – They are found statewide.

Habitat – Normally found in vegetated lakes, swamps and backwaters, and small to large rivers. They prefer water temperatures from 75 to 80 degrees.

Spawning Habits – Chain pickerels are random spawners rather than nest builders. Spawning occurs in late winter to spring among heavy aquatic weed growth or flooded grasses, in water from a few inches deep to several feet deep. Large number of adhesive eggs are scattered over vegetation. No nest is constructed and no parental care is given to the eggs or fry. About three to four weeks after hatching, they begin cannibalizing other fry.

Feeding Habits – The chain pickerels diet is mainly fish. They also eat insects, frogs, mice, crayfish and a wide variety of other foods.

Age and Growth – Sexes are similar. Sexual maturity is reached in first to fourth year, and maximum life span probably eight to nine years. Females grow faster than males. In Florida, chain pickerels can reach lengths of up to 30 inches long.

Sporting Quality – Although not so common as the black bass, chain pickerels are often encountered by bass anglers, especially while plug casting. They are good fighters, especially on light tackle. Productive lures include spinner baits, weedless spoons, surface plugs, crankbaits and jigs. Minnows are a reliable year-round bait.

Eating Quality – The white, flaky meat is good tasting, but quite bony.

World Record – 9.38 pounds, caught in Guest Millpond, Georgia, in 1961.

State Record – 8.00 pounds, caught in Lake Talquin, Gadsden County, in 1971.

Information courtesy of MyFWC

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