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Chain Pickerel

General Facts
The chain pickerel can be found in very similar locations as largemouth bass. Like bass they prefer areas with vegetative and woody cover. This species is in the same family as the muskellunge and northern pike and look very similar, though chain pickerel do not grow as large.

Chain pickerel are an excellent species to target during the early spring, due to their preference for cooler water. Chain pickerel are ambush predators that will follow lures for short distances with great bursts of speed. This can produce some excellent topwater action in the late spring and early summer. They will often resemble a small torpedo going through the water, making a wake behind your bait.

Chain pickerel are a very adaptable species living in a wide range of habitats throughout the state. This gamefish is one of few that are able to tolerate the low pH (acidic) waters associated with the Pine Barrens. Many old cranberry bogs in the Pinelands have excellent chain pickerel fisheries. Other waters that have excellent fisheries include Swartswood Lake, Lake Hopatcong, Cranberry Lake, and Lake Lenape. The majority of the year pickerel can be located in shallow bays with vegetation or stumps. During the winter they will move to deeper areas of the lake in search of forage.

Chain pickerel will bite year round and are very popular among anglers fishing through the ice. Spring and fall are excellent times to target chain pickerel.

Chain pickerel will eat almost anything that moves at times. Live bait such as killifish, minnows and shiners are great baits to use. Lures such as in line spinners, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, plastic worms and topwater lures are tops. In shallow weedbeds chain pickerel can't pass-up soft plastic jerkbaits such as the Slug-go, Fin-S, Flappin' Shad, and Zoom Fluke.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 18, 2004