Pickerel is a Canadian favourite.
But, apparently, there’s been a bit of confusion over the freshwater species. It seems many of us have been confusing pickerel with walleye. Although they have some similar features not only are they not the same fish, they aren't even in the same family.
We’re here to set the record straight.
There are a few, obvious physical differences. Pickerel;
- Have different scales
- Are coloured differently
- Lack a spiny dorsal fin
- Have a lower pectoral fin
- Have a shorter soft dorsal fin
- Have a pelvic fin much further towards the back
- Have a longer, pointier nose
Now that we know the difference....
You can find 3 types of pickerel in Eastern Canada all over Nova Scotia, Ontario, and everywhere in between.
- Chain Pickerel (Esox Niger) - This is the most commonly found type of pickerel in Canadian waters. They have banded chainlike markings - hence the name - weigh in at 3 to 4 pounds and grow to about 2 feet in length.
- Redfin Pickerel (Esox Americanus) - This species’ identifying feature is - you guessed it - red fins. Otherwise, they look fairly similar to the chain pickerel. But, they are a little smaller maxing out at just over 1 pound.
- Grass Pickerel (Esox Americanus) - Physically, the grass pickerel is a miniature - averaging less than a foot long - version of the chain pickerel.
It’s not very likely that you’ll be taking home the smaller variety of pickerel. Regardless of the type of pickerel that winds up on your hook, they all share common habits.
- Part of the Pike family
- They ambush. They’ll hide in the weeds and the rough, and lunge out at smaller prey
- Energetic fighter. Good sport
- They offer a lean, white, flakey meat with a mild taste
- Tiny bones and difficult to cook, but so worth it
Chain Pickerel: 9 pounds, 6 ounces
Redfin Pickerel: 2 pounds, 4 ounces
Grass Pickerel: 1 pound
How To Catch Pickerel:
Due to their backwards facing sharp teeth and highly active vigour, we recommend a steel leader paired with a 12-17 lb test line.
Chain pickerel are most attracted to flashy lures which mimic foraging forage fish. Anglers are often successful using minnows, spinnerbaits, spoons, plugs, and flies, either live or plastic. The best tactic is to drag your lure through (or close to) the weeds and jerk it horizontally, causing the pickerel to think that its prey is injured and easily caught. If they’re hungry, they’ll hit.
Find them in ponds, natural lakes, black-water rivers and large (hydropower systems) impoundments. They prefer acidic and tannin-stained waters with lots of vegetation.
How To Clean A Pickerel
If you’ve never cleaned a pickerel, the only universal negative of this species are the dozens of tiny bones. Follow this how-to video and avoid those nasty bones, quick and easy.
How To Cook A Pickerel
We love beer battered fish as much as you do, but if you’re looking for an alternative this summer, shake things up with a few veggies and get your roasting pan out.
Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with walleye but if it's pickerel you're after, now you know what to look out for, how to catch them, how to clean them, and how to cook them.
By the time this blog is posted, we'll only be a few short days away from Opening Weekend. Make sure to check out our Spring Startup Guide so that you're 100% ready to come home with a full live well.
Yours In Boating,