The chain pickerel is widely distributed in lakes and rivers south of the Adirondacks. A modest-sized fish, it averages one to two pounds in weight and 15 to 20 inches in length.
Its fully scaled cheeks and gill covers distinguish it from the northern pike and muskellunge, while its large size and distinct chain link marks on its sides differentiate it from other pickerels. The chain pickerel is green to bronze in color, with eight sensory pores on the undersurface of the lower jaw and a conspicuous dark bar beneath each eye, which extends straight down or slightly forward.
Pickerel prefer quiet waters with heavy weed growth. They are among the first fishes to spawn after ice-out in spring (April-May). Mature adults migrate into swampy or marshy backwater areas to spread their adhesive eggs. Early spawning increases the young chain pickerels’ chances of survival, because they are large enough to feed on the newly hatched young of other species.