North American East Coast Chain Pickerel
The Chain Pickerel is very addictive to fish and everyone I have ever introduced to chain pickerel fishing have become almost fanatical about it, even to the point where most other fishing gets put to the side for a year or two. I did it myself and still find the draw of the pickerel hard to resist long enough to fish for anything else.
If you want to make your pickerel fishing even more exciting, try using your fly rod from a float tube. So cool, so very cool.
What you don’t know what a chain pickerel is? Sorry about that, let me tell you what I know about them. It won’t take but a minute.
Who is the Chain Pickerel?
The chain pickerel is a fresh water fish related to the pike and distinguishable because of their chain like colouring where the pike is more dotted.
I am not completely sure of all the places in the world the pickerel lives but from my experience and from reading other people’s blogs I know that they live along our North American coast.
I fish them here in New Brunswick but when I lived in Ontario they called walleye by the name pickerel. Which really confused me when I moved down here.
I was just reading something the other on a forum where I guy was saying he fishing chain pickerel North Carolina. I also read on Wikipedia that they range all the way down into Florida. I always thought they only lived in northern climates, guess I learned something new.
The image above is a close up shot on the side of a chain pickerel. Forgive the quality, err lack of quality. I get a bit shakey when I am excited and believe me I get excited pickerel fishing.
The chain pickerel has a distinctive dark chain-like pattern on its greenish sides. It tends to be very dark along the top side and fades down the side to a white belly.
When I first caught a pickerel it’s head and body shape really reminded me of the pike I used to catch in Ontario.
The largest I have landed is 24″ but my buddy in the other end of my boat landed a 26″ one. Well he brought it to the boat, but made me land it. It was his first every pickerel and he wasn’t about to go near that mouth.
I have heard from others that I fish with that they can exceed 40″. Wouldn’t mind hooking into that ole girl.
What Do They Eat? Or maybe what won’t they eat?
Pickerel like to ambush smaller fish. That is what they are waiting for when I cast to them. They will also clean out of the water for a flying insect and will eat leeches, frogs and I wouldn’t want to be a small bird hitting the water to close to a pickerel.
Anything that gets in that toothy grin isn’t likely to get out. I don’t even like to clean my hands after just releasing one. I like my fingers just the way they are, all of them.
I have watched them turn and grab a bait hanging over the water immediately after releasing them. They are as fast as lightning. Scary stuff, exciting stuff.
What I Use To Get Their Attention
After fishing pickerel for more than a decade or two I have a few confidence baits but I do try all kinds of things. I usually start out with a confidence bait and when I see there is action I try the new things.
When I am in open water, or very sparse weeds I like Rapala baits.
I do use my spinning rod most of the time, again sticking to the weeds.
When using my spinning gear I still stick to the weeds most of time. I cast to bother the weeds and the open water but stay close to the edges.
As for the baits well everyone has their favorite confidence baits that seem to work most of the time year after year. I can’t give out the name of that particular bait but I can tell you it’s soft plastic.
Jamie, keep tight lipped on this one, okay?
I like using frogs but have only caught a few. I asked about this on a forum and they were saying that I hadn’t purchased the right kind of frog.
I know they like frogs and have had hundreds of hits and explosions, just only ever hooked a very few of them. I still had a blast throwing it out there and watching the action. It never gets old.
Jamie had the right frogs this year but I didn’t have the right hook length for that one. I will have some of them thar frogs and appropriate hooks for next season.
As for other lures, well if you have bass lures, then you have what it takes to catch pickerel, just be aware that pickerel have teeth that will slice and dice baits. Think about pinching down the barbs as pickerel can get the lures pretty far back into their throats. Barbless hooks are easy to remove.
It’s wise to use steel leaders as their teeth are like razor blades.
Tip I Learned From Kerry Jones: If you use the head cement used for tying flies you can make the steel lead ends smoother so they pull through the weeds better.
I have watched pickerel come clear right out of the water and smash down on baits just like a big ole bass does. Those are the times I wish I had a head cam. And is your buddy ever looking when that happens. Nope, he’s busy starring at his own line.
I like to use my fly rod and I like getting into the weeds. For that I have to use big hairy bass bugs and frogs. It’s heart stopping.
When the weeds are sparse or it’s early spring I will use a Mickey Finn or any bright coloured streamer. I like running it just an inch or two below the surface so I can still see the fly. I really love to see the strike.
I tend to get worn out much quicker using my fly rod, so I always bring my spinning gear with me so I can continue even when I am beat.
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