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Pickerel Fishing is Plenty Fun and Always a Good Time

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June 18, 2012

Pickerel Fishing is Plenty Fun and Always a Good Time

By John Merwin

I took a Johnson Silver Minnow from the tackle box, added a white pork rind strip, and then fastened it to a short wire leader. The shiny spoon glistened in the sunlight as I held it in the air before casting. “That looks like Chapter One in The Book of Pickerel,” said guide Dale Wheaton* from the back of our canoe.

And so it was. The rig caught pickerel all day long as we fished a Washington County lake in far-southeastern Maine; in the back ends of various coves where the lake bottom transitions from hard rock to mud, weeds are abundant, and the pickerel abound. And they are usually — but not always — easy to catch.

This was both a holiday and a trip back in time. More than 50 years ago, as a little boy, I was thrilled to catch pickerel in the lakes of this area. My parents paddled an 18-foot canoe with my two brothers and I in the middle. It was a comedy of squirming kids and tangled lines, held together not just by parental patience but also by the generosity of pickerel. No matter the snarls, the errant casts, or the youthful ignorance of all things fishing, the pickerel were inevitably willing.

These fish don’t get much enthusiastic press coverage. Other species are bigger, more challenging and glamorous. But pickerel will smash a small surface lure, a spoon, a streamer fly or even a bass bug with abandon. They pull hard for their size, and they even jump sometimes when hooked.

That’s why I took a day off from some excellent landlocked-salmon and smallmouth bass fishing to go after pickerel instead. Not the overly serious, hard-core fishing. It was just plain fun — something that I think is missing too often in the complexities of both modern angling and life in general.

I look back at the pickerel of a half-century ago and smile. And I smile, too, at the recollection of pickerel a scant two weeks old. In fishing, I think, that’s as good as it gets.

*I’ve written about this lodge fairly often, but no, I’m not shilling for the place. I paid for my trip there. There was no quid pro quo. I just like the lodge and its people, and the fishing is terrific.

Comments (16)

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from larson014 wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

is that like a subspecies of pike?

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from 357 wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

they are a member of the Esox family, waleye, pike, and musky are also members.

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from knipster wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

@357: walleye are not in the Esox family, they're in the perch family.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

This part of the country is one of the few places I have never fished. I look forward to getting there someday. I am sure I will not be disappointed.

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from Krispyhuntar wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

did a bass tournament with my dad in northern maine the other day and couldnt shake the pickerel. fun anyway though since all were averaging 4-6 lbs and 24 inches

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from bigz24bigbass wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

I'll second the article, they are fun to catch!

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from bassman06 wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

When I fish at my grandfather's lake I hook into some 2-3 footers. I can't stand them after all this time getting bit by them while unhooking or swimming!

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from Trapper Vic wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Pickerel? Dad used to fish lake Erie and always came home with "pickerel" (walleye in todays world). The fish in the picture looks like a northern pike. Somebody straighten me out here. Thanks

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from johnmerwin wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Sorry for the confusion! The fish in the photo is an eastern chain pickerel, which is fairly common from Maine to Florida and east to the Mississippi. It is a smaller cousin to northern pike and muskies.

The unrelated walleye is sometimes called walleyed pike or even just "pickerel," but the names are technically incorrect. Walleyes are in the perch family, as someone noted above.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

There are chain pickerel in a nearby lake and they are a blast to fish. Haven't fished for them in a long time, I think I'll have to head that way cast around.

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Hi...

Regarding pickerel, they're my second favorite fresh water game fish...right behind brook trout.

They're fun to fish for and will take a variety of lures. I think my favorite lure for them (so far) is a Rapala.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dtownley wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Ate at a restaurant in Windsor Canada had pickerel on the menu, I was hopeing to see a pickerel but it was a walleye, not disappointed but I learned that is what they called them up there. Snakes, Jacks, Hammerhandles, is the Canadian slang for pike up there.
Walleye, pike, crappie, sunfish(small bass)are my favorite scaled freshwater fish to eat, then river cats, paddlefish. Canned, fried, grilled, baked, miss canned salmon, pike.

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from Bigagoo wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

You can find these pickerel twisting through the reed edges. Surface lures like poppers work well I believe.

John
www.trollingmotorsupply.com

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from wisc14 wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

well written. seems in northern wisconsin there are too many people with big rangers fishing strictly for 50 in. muskies and others who think they are on the walleye pro tour or something.

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from I pig a dygmy wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I grew up in southern New Jersey, land of pine barrens and cedar bogs. Chain pickerel were one of my favorite fish to chase. Explosive strikes and fun battles. I mostly caught them on spoons and they love slightly running water. They are just like a pike, only smaller. The ones I caught ranged from about 14-20 inches. I now live out west in Arizona but I often think about those pickerel and would love to fight one again...maybe with a fly rod this time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I grew up on pickerel in the Catskills as well as in southern NH. It never gets old.

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Post a Comment

from knipster wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

@357: walleye are not in the Esox family, they're in the perch family.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnmerwin wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Sorry for the confusion! The fish in the photo is an eastern chain pickerel, which is fairly common from Maine to Florida and east to the Mississippi. It is a smaller cousin to northern pike and muskies.

The unrelated walleye is sometimes called walleyed pike or even just "pickerel," but the names are technically incorrect. Walleyes are in the perch family, as someone noted above.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Hi...

Regarding pickerel, they're my second favorite fresh water game fish...right behind brook trout.

They're fun to fish for and will take a variety of lures. I think my favorite lure for them (so far) is a Rapala.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from larson014 wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

is that like a subspecies of pike?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 357 wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

they are a member of the Esox family, waleye, pike, and musky are also members.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

This part of the country is one of the few places I have never fished. I look forward to getting there someday. I am sure I will not be disappointed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Krispyhuntar wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

did a bass tournament with my dad in northern maine the other day and couldnt shake the pickerel. fun anyway though since all were averaging 4-6 lbs and 24 inches

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigz24bigbass wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

I'll second the article, they are fun to catch!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman06 wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

When I fish at my grandfather's lake I hook into some 2-3 footers. I can't stand them after all this time getting bit by them while unhooking or swimming!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Pickerel? Dad used to fish lake Erie and always came home with "pickerel" (walleye in todays world). The fish in the picture looks like a northern pike. Somebody straighten me out here. Thanks

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

There are chain pickerel in a nearby lake and they are a blast to fish. Haven't fished for them in a long time, I think I'll have to head that way cast around.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dtownley wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

Ate at a restaurant in Windsor Canada had pickerel on the menu, I was hopeing to see a pickerel but it was a walleye, not disappointed but I learned that is what they called them up there. Snakes, Jacks, Hammerhandles, is the Canadian slang for pike up there.
Walleye, pike, crappie, sunfish(small bass)are my favorite scaled freshwater fish to eat, then river cats, paddlefish. Canned, fried, grilled, baked, miss canned salmon, pike.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bigagoo wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

You can find these pickerel twisting through the reed edges. Surface lures like poppers work well I believe.

John
www.trollingmotorsupply.com

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

well written. seems in northern wisconsin there are too many people with big rangers fishing strictly for 50 in. muskies and others who think they are on the walleye pro tour or something.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from I pig a dygmy wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I grew up in southern New Jersey, land of pine barrens and cedar bogs. Chain pickerel were one of my favorite fish to chase. Explosive strikes and fun battles. I mostly caught them on spoons and they love slightly running water. They are just like a pike, only smaller. The ones I caught ranged from about 14-20 inches. I now live out west in Arizona but I often think about those pickerel and would love to fight one again...maybe with a fly rod this time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I grew up on pickerel in the Catskills as well as in southern NH. It never gets old.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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