Chain Pickerel, Esox niger

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Distribution:


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Description:

The chain pickerel has an elongated, narrow body.  It has a dark green back, green to bronze sides and a white belly.  The sides have a dark chain-like pattern and there is a dark vertical line extending down from the eye. The slightly rounded dorsal fin is set far  backover the anal fin, and the caudal fin is deeply forked.  The large mouth is similar in  shape to a duck's bill and has many sharp teeth. Submandibular pores 7 or 8 (rarely 9) and  branchiostegal rays 14-17, most often 6 + 9 (6 on ceratohyal, 9 on epihyal) on each side and the opercula are fully scaled.  The average size is 15 - 18 inches and can attain sizes greater than 30 inches.

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Biology:   

The chain pickerel live in the shallow vegetated waters of lakes and rivers.  They are an ambush predator, and will eat almost anything that they can swallow.  They eat mostly fish like the yellow perch and minnows, but have been know to eat crayfish, mice, frogs, and snakes.  Young chain pickerel eat plankton, small fish, and aquatic insects until they are about 4 inches.  Spawning occurs in the spring in calm, shallow, and vegetated areas.  Their adhesive sinking eggs are scattered over the vegetation, and there is no parental care for theeggs or young.  Young of the year chain pickerel can grow to about four inches by the fall oftheir first year.  The adult chain pickerel has few threats due to its size, however the young fish may fall prey for a variety of other fishes and fish eating birds.  Its size and strength make this species a target for some anglers, although not widely angled as a recreational species. It is often fished for through the ice during the winter season.

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Similar species:

Muskellunge