• Family: Esocidae (Pikes)
• Other Names: None
• Ohio Status: Sport fish and introduced
• Adult Size: Typically 15-20 inches, can reach 30 inches. Usually weighs 1-2 pounds, can reach 7 pounds.
• Typical Foods: Primarily fish but will take nearly anything they can fit in their mouth, including frogs and other small animals.
The chain pickerel, like other pike species, has a long tubular shaped body. They have a dark tear drop under their eye and a light colored stripe against a darker background down the center of their back. They have a chain like pattern of a dark background and large oblong yellow spots on their side. Young individuals do not yet have this typical chain like body pattern and have blotches or even vertical bars along their side. The color pattern changes gradually and by the time they are about 8 inches long they have the adult pattern. Chain pickerel can be distinguished from northern pike or muskellunge by their lack of spots or dark markings on their fins. Grass pickerel differ by having a pattern of vertical bars along their side, less deeply forked tail, and a shorter snout. Additionally grass pickerel rarely exceed 10 inches in length and never reach more than 12 inches.
Habitat and Habits
Chain pickerel are found in clear waters with an abundance of dense aquatic vegetation. They can be found in slow moving streams, permanent wetlands, and natural lakes. This species is not native to Ohio and naturally occurs along the entire east coast, across Florida, and along the gulf coast. They were introduced into Long Lake (one of the Portage Lakes in Akron Ohio) in 1935. They persisted there for some time and stockings throughout the state began in 1954 and continued until 1982. In most cases these stocking failed to produce a permanent population but there may still be a few chain pickerel in some areas of Ohio.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Chain pickerel spawn in spring in shallow areas over submerged vegetation. They scatter their eggs and provide no parental care for the eggs or young.