Chain Pickerel are a species of North American freshwater fishes, native to various watersheds in New York State. This fish species can be found all along the Atlantic slope; from as far north as Canada, into the northeast, and down through the southern part of the country and west to Texas.
Chain pickerel and northern pike are both a part of the pike family. The most obvious difference to these members of the pike family is the disparity in their coloration. Pike are much darker in color than their chain pickerel cousins. Other kind of pickerel found in NYS include, redfin pickerel and grass pickerel.
Chain pickerel take about 4-5 years to reach the average weight of 2 lbs and can live up to around 9 years. The NYS record for chain pickerel is 8 pounds 1 ounce. These predators are a smaller fish, which can be found in lakes and large rivers, usually associated with submerged aquatic vegetation.
They are highly sought after freshwater fish by anglers due to their voracious appetite and fighting spirit when caught on the line – they make a popular sport fish.
Chain Pickerel prefer a warmer water than many other freshwater species, with the optimal temperature range being in the upper 70s. Chain pickerel habitat is most often found in weedy lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, as well as slow-moving reaches of warm-water streams. They can also be found in brackish water, such as estuaries and tidal creeks.
To escape hot weather they are known to seek out shady spots away from direct sunlight. Chain pickerel live mostly in shallow water (less than 10 feet deep). In the fall, when water temperatures begin to drop, these fish will often move to the outside edges of weed beds for protection from the cold. Clear waters with submerged aquatic vegetation provide the best conditions for Chain Pickerel to thrive, as they use this submerged vegetation and cover to ambush prey, as they are enthusiastic predators
Chain Pickerel can be found throughout NYS. Below we’ve combined input from a number of sources to provide you a comprehensive list of of the best places to fish for chain pickerel in New York State.
From our online research, we’ve identified these five locations as among the best chain pickerel hotspots.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation suggests that some of the best chain pickerel fishing in NYS can be found in its Regions 1, 3, 5,6, 7, and 8 – see the below map.
Four ponds on the Peconic River:
Chain Pickerel are voracious predators, often hiding among vegetation, and ambushing prey as they swim by. Chain Pickerel is an opportunistic feeder that uses its keen vision and sharp teeth to quickly catch unsuspecting prey. In addition, it has been known to take advantage of wounded or injured baitfish. Chain Pickerel typically feed during the day and become less active during the night.
The best natural prey for Chain Pickerel include:
Chain Pickerel are amongst the first fish to spawn after ice-out in spring. The chain pickerel spawn usually occurs between April and May in the early spring. Adult chain pickerel are usually solitary fish, but during spawning season, one or two male pickerel will travel alongside a female to spawn. Early spawning occurs in order to increase the chances of survival for young chain pickerel, since they are larger than other young fish and newly hatched species.
As the adult chain pickerel migrate into swampy or marshy backwater areas, they spread their sticky eggs on vegetation and other surfaces. An adult chain pickerel female can lay up to 5000 eggs at once, which will take around 6-12 days to hatch. After hatching the young chain pickerel remain in shallow waters close to shorelines.
Fishing for Chain Pickerel is a popular activity in NYS and is best done in the spring and fall, which offer some of the best catching opportunities. Though anglers looking to catch this fish species through the winter months can also have success with ice fishing, as these predators winter in deeper waters before spawning occurs.
The most effective technique when targeting Chain Pickerel is jigging and trolling with live bait such as minnows, shad and worms. Lures such as spoons and crankbaits can also work in certain conditions. As Chain Pickerel are known to strike quickly, anglers should be prepared for a fast-paced day of fishing on the water.
Chain pickerel are a popular game fish in NYS. As such, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulates fishing for Chain Pickerel in the state. Open season for Pickerel is between May 1 and March 15th. The fish must be a minimum of 15″ long, with a catch limit of 5 per day. Anglers should also be aware that angling periods and size limits may differ in certain areas, so it is important to check local regulations before fishing.
The DEC also discourages the stocking of this species outside of its native range in order to prevent any potential damage to existing aquatic ecosystems. By following these regulations, anglers can help ensure the health of Chain Pickerel populations throughout New York State.