Pickerels are small freshwater fish that can be split into 3 distinct species: the Chain Pickerel, the Grass Pickerel, and the Redfin Pickerel. They are all small American members of the pike family. Pickerels resemble each other in structure and shape. These fish are also referred to by other names such as gun fish, grass pike, federation pickerel, jackfish, or Eastern pickerel.
The name of the fish is derived from the Latin word “Niger”, meaning black because their predominant color is, as you might have guessed it already, black.
The Redfin Pickerel is marked by vertical lines and light orange-red fins whereas the Chain Pickerel is olive-gray, splotched with yellow-green. One thing worth noting is that Grass Pickerel is considered an endangered species since 2008, and it is a sub-species of the Redfin Pickerel.
Pickerel can be found in the Southern and Eastern coast of North America, but also in lakes such as Lake Michigan and The Great Lakes. The fish usually measures 24-inches in length, and it weighs 3 pounds.
Pickerels breed early in the spring. The females lay their eggs in shallow water, on the weeds that grow in the rivers. When they are born, the Pickerels feed on zooplankton, until they grow and are able to feed on larger items.
As these are small fish, most of their feeding is done on lakes or river bottoms. A Pickerel will eat pretty much anything that comes its way, starting from small fish, to snails, larvae or caddis.
Based on their size, large Pickerels eat newts, frogs, and even small rodents. The Grass Pickerel, which is the smallest relative, usually eats insects, as these fish cannot handle bigger prays.
In order to avoid being eaten by larger Pickerels, the smaller ones live in waters where they are unlikely to meet their bigger relatives and become prey.
Because Pickerels also feed on smaller fish, they can be regarded as predators. One of the Pickerel’s favorite dish is the Northern Pike. When they are big enough, Pickerels move on to bigger fish.
They hunt by lunging at the prey from cover and by securing it with their sharp, deep teeth.
Although their playground is the water, Pickerels often jump out in order to grab flying insects.
This species is also edible, so, in order to catch them, bass lures can be used, with a plastic worm attached to the hook.