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  • Chain Pickerel Vs. Northern Pike

    Chain pickerel and northern pike are closely related members of the pike family. The fish look very similar in appearance and also have similar habitat preferences and hunting techniques. The differences are mainly in size, markings and distribution.
    Chain Pickerel Vs. Northern Pike

    Chain Pickerel Appearance (pictured above)

    Chain pickerel are long, slender fish with an elongated mouth containing many sharp teeth. They have dark green bodies with a chainlike pattern of darker markings. This is what gives the fish its common name. Chain pickerel inhabit weedy ponds and lakes. Its coloration is the perfect camouflage to ambush fish. The opportunistic predators also eat frogs, crayfish and other prey.


    Northern Pike Appearance

    Northern pike are also long, slender fish with a long, tapered mouth filled with sharp teeth. Northern pike have olive-green sides marked by numerous white oval-shaped markings. Like chain pickerel, pike blend in well with its preferred weedy haunts. Northern pike also feed on fish, as well as frogs, ducklings and even muskrats.

    Fisherman with a Northern Pike


    In addition to the different coloration, there are other differences between northern pike and chain pickerel. Chain pickerel have a small black mark under the eyes. Also, the cheeks and gill covers are fully scaled in chain pickerel. Although the cheeks of northern pike are fully scaled, only the upper half of the gill cover has scales.


    Chain pickerel are native from the North Atlantic states south to the Gulf states. Originally found only in the eastern United States and in southeastern Canada, the pickerels' range has expanded. The northern pike, however, is one of the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world. It originally inhabited most of the United States and Canada, except for some portions of the South and West. Northern pike are also native to much of Europe and Asia.


    Size differs greatly between the two species. Northern pike can reach weights of more than 40 pounds in North America, and even larger specimens have been recorded in Europe. However, a 20-pound fish is considered a trophy. Chain pickerel are much smaller. The world record weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces and any pickerel over 4 pounds is considered big.


    Article Written By Joe Shead

    Joe Shead is a freelance writer specializing in outdoor writing. He has written for numerous national and regional outdoor magazines on various topics from hunting to fishing to his pet subject, shed antler hunting.

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