Chain pickerel

The Esox Niger, commonly known as Chain Pickerel, is a freshwater native fish species. They are usually found in Eastern Northern America.

Chain Pickerels have an average life expectancy of 8-9 years with an average size of 14-15 inches.


This fish species is characterized by a narrow, elongated shape and a duckbill snout.

Their color pattern is a combination of olive green with a chainlike pattern on the side, and black bar streams down the eye.

Chain pickerels typically maintain a calm and motionless posture, which often resembles a drifting stick.

Habitat and Lifestyle

The Chain Pickerel fish species are usually found in several freshwater habitats like swamps, lakes, ponds, and streams.

They are mostly found abundantly in sluggish, calm, and clear water. Their presence is mainly found in submerged cover regions like logs, brush, or aquatic vegetation.

As sight-oriented predators, they are mainly active during the daytime and strike unwary prey with great speed.

Finding and Catching

This fish can be caught from an inflatable boat or kayak.

They are commonly found in stained and acidic water with high vegetation coverage. Hence, backwater sloughs and ponds of large rivers serve as a great base for Chain Pickerels.

Since they are found all year-long, jigging ice with flashy & bright spoons is suitable for winter. While, soft plastics, spinners, and crankbaits serve well during summer and fall. Fly anglers and jitterbug pairs well during late summer.

Peak Season

Although this fish species is found throughout the year, early spring is the most ideal time for Pickerel fishing.

Early spring means their pre-spawn duration with many large Chain Pickerels around to fish. During summertime, lakes and ponds will also separate smaller fish from bigger fish.

Best Bait

The following makes some of the top bait options for Chain Pickerel fishing:

  • Arkansas shiners
  • Pond shiners
  • Chubs
  • Emerald shiners
  • Sucker minnows