An Angler's Guide to Chain Pickerel

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

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A Florida fishing expert shares his tips and tools for catching freshwater favorite, chain pickerel.

One of Florida's best features is its abundant water life — and this includes freshwater and saltwater (along with everything in between). Found throughout the state in rivers, lakes and creeks, chain pickerel are often encountered by bass anglers using top water plugs.

Though it may not have been what they were looking for, many fishermen are pleasantly surprised by the pickerel's energetic fight. Though rare for the fish to exceed 30 inches, the pickerel becomes a spitfire when hooked. Chain pickerel longer than 22 inches or heavier than three pounds are eligible for the Big Catch Angler Recognition program, and the Florida record is 6.96 pounds. Their name comes from the distinctive chain-like markings along their backs, while their olive green and cream coloring combined with the patterning makes them perfectly suited for the shady lakes and rivers they inhabit.

A freshwater member of the pike family, chain pickerels are found along the Eastern coast of Florida all the way around to Texas. They can also be found in southern Canada and in some of the Great Lakes.

Sometimes called a "jack fish" or a "southern pike," pickerel feed mainly on smaller fish, ambushing them with sharp teeth. Dragging a lure through shallow water weeds is an excellent way to attract this fierce fish. And because those same sharp teeth make catching and handling pickerel challenging, a wire leader is a must-have for landing bigger fish. Though chain pickerel are edible, they are bony and fairly difficult to clean. They are generally valued more as a sportfish than a table dish.


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