How to Fish for Pickerel

by Floyd Drake III

The pickerel is a plentiful and easily caught fish, often going by a variety of names, such as pike, eastern and chain pickerel (because of their banded or chain-like pattern), and North American pickerel. Basic fishing equipment is the only requirement to fish for pickerel; both bait and lures yield good results. Averaging 2 feet in length and 2 lbs., pickerel are solitary fish, preferring water temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Items you will need

  • Fishing pole
  • Shad darts or Kirby salmon hooks
  • Bait
  • Lures
  • Leader (optional)
  • Float and sinker (optional)
  • Fishing net
Step 1

Go where pickerel are commonly found. As inhabitants of the entire East Coast, the mid-Atlantic states and the Gulf Coast, pickerel like to inhabit the shallow waters of lakes, streams, ponds, tidal and nontidal rivers. Pickerel especially prefer quiet pools found in creeks and rivers, as well as vegetated areas. Brackish estuaries are also popular pickerel fishing grounds.

Step 2

Use the proper fishing equipment. The pole should be a fairly stiff 10-foot rod, and the preferred hooks for fresh bait include shad darts and the Kirby salmon hook. Use hook sizes between 0 and 5, depending on the size pickerel desired.

Step 3

Use live or fresh bait. Pickerel favorites include small minnows and small frogs. However, fresh fish, worms or skinned frog legs also work well. Since pickerel are sight feeders, using live bait is preferred, with the bait being impaled in a manner that does not kill the fish. If using live frogs, place the hook through the skin of the back or belly.

Step 4

Fish for pickerel using lures. Pickerel are known to pursue lures, with small spoons and frog lures commonly used. Fishing Stringer also recommends using streamer flies and spinners. Attaching a leader to the line when using lures allows for easy lure switching.

Step 5

Catch the fish. When a pickerel is caught, reel it in expecting a fight. For their size, pickerel are known to be stubborn. When the fish is landed, catch it in a fishing net to prevent it from becoming "the one that got away."

Tips & Warnings

  • Since pickerel are aware of their surroundings, they are easily spooked. It is recommended that you stay back from the water when fishing for pickerel.
  • Treble hooks are not recommended for pickerel, as they can tear up the fish's mouth. This is especially important in catch-and-release fishing.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images