Chain Pickerel


Chain pickerel are deep olive-green on the back, shading to a creamy yellow on the belly, with the back and anal fin about the same size and located far back on an elongated body. A distinct black chain-like or interwoven marking on the sides give them their name.


Found statewide, normally in vegetated lakes, swamps and backwaters of small to large rivers.


Spawning occurs in late winter to spring among heavy aquatic weed growth or flooded grasses, in water from a few inches deep to several feet deep. Large number of adhesive eggs are scattered over vegetation.

State Record:

6.96 lbs. Big Catch: 27 inches or 4 lbs.

Fishing Tips and Facts:

Chain pickerel are often encountered by bass anglers, especially while plug casting. They are good fighters, especially on light tackle. Productive lures include spinnerbaits, weedless spoons, surface plugs, crankbaits and jigs. Minnows are a reliable year-round bait. The white, flaky meat is good tasting, but quite bony.

Additional Information:

Chain pickerel are usually caught with conventional spinning and baitcasting tackle. When fishing for chain pickerel, anglers use many of the same lures that are popular for catching largemouth bass, especially buzz baits, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and soft plastics.

In addition to bass fishing lures, a few selections are favored among chain pickerel specialists. In areas where aquatic vegetation is not overwhelming, spoons and inline spinners are two popular choices. Like their larger cousins, the northern pike, chain pickerel are known to show a preference for red and white colored lures. Fly fishermen also catch pickerel using mid-sized to large streamers, frogs, poppers, and other patterns.

Chain pickerel are one of the few species of Mid Atlantic freshwater fish that are active in the winter. During the winter fishing season, they are often found along channel edges and other areas where baitfish are found.

Anglers targeting schools of crappie during winter or early spring often encounter chain pickerel. Although minnows and small jigs fished on ultralight outfits are typical for winter crappie fishing, these actually work well for catching chain pickerel.

Chain pickerel tolerate brackish water well and are found in tidal rivers of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and other Mid Atlantic and all Southern states.

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