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Chain Pickerel

Chain PickerelScientific Name

Esox niger

Other Common Names

chainsides, jackpike, pike


A member of the pike family, it is named for its chain-like markings on its sides. Also has a black vertical mark under its eye. Normally its fin is unmarked. Averages 1.5 to 3 lbs. Fully scaled on both cheek and gill cover.

Best Fishing

Rivers: Nottoway, Blackwater, Chickahominy, Dragon Run. Lakes: Chickahominy, Gaston, Western Branch, Diascund, Burnt Mills, Prince, Anna, Cohoon, Little Creek, Moomaw, Douthat and many other rivers, ponds and lakes.

Fishing Techniques

Best time is from October through March. Most active when water temperatures are 55° to 70°F. Spinners, spoons, bucktails, jigs, pork rind baits and a variety of crankbaits will take pickerel. Minnows are the best live bait. Fish the edges of weed beds, lily pad beds, sunken brush or tree stumps.

Feeding Habits

Feeds on small fish, insects, worms, snakes, salamanders, frogs, tadpoles and small mammals. Pickerel tend to be solitary fish, lurking hidden in the aquatic vegetation, waiting for prey to swim or drift by. They feed day or night, year round, but mostly in early mornings and evenings. While they are mostly territorial and stick to a relatively small area, they are more active and may roam and search for food during the cooler months.


Common in rivers and streams, they are also found in reservoirs and impoundments on the rivers they inhabited. Even in the smallest of creeks you may find pickerel. Prefers shallow, weedy waters.

Spawning Habits

They spawn in early spring, broadcasting their eggs over vegetation in water a foot or two deep. Young attach to vegetation until they use up their egg sack.