American pickerel

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Redfin and grass pickerels
Esox americanus americanus.jpg
Redfin pickerel, E. americanus americanus
Esox americanus vermiculatus.jpg
Grass pickerel, Esox americanus vermiculatus
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae
Genus: Esox
E. americanus
Binomial name
Esox americanus

Esox americanus americanus J. F. Gmelin, 1789
Esox americanus vermiculatus Lesueur, 1846

The American pickerels are two subspecies of Esox americanus, a species of freshwater fish in the pike family (family Esocidae) of order Esociformes: the redfin pickerel, E. americanus americanus Gmelin, 1789, and the grass pickerel, E. americanus vermiculatus Lesueur, 1846.

Both subspecies are native to North America. They are not to be confused with their aggressive counterpart the northern pike. The redfin pickerel's range extends from the Saint Lawrence drainage in Quebec down to the Gulf Coast, from Mississippi to Florida, while the grass pickerel's range is further west, extending from the Great Lakes Basin, from Ontario to Michigan, down to the western Gulf Coast, from eastern Texas to Mississippi.

The two subspecies are very similar, but the grass pickerel lacks the redfin's distinctive orange to red fin coloration, its fins having dark leading edges and amber to dusky coloration. In addition, the light areas between the dark bands are generally wider on the grass pickerel and narrower on the redfin pickerel. Record size grass and redfin pickerels can weigh around 2 pounds[1] and reach lengths of around 13 inches.[2] Redfin and grass pickerels are typically smaller than chain pickerels which can be much larger.[2]

The redfin and grass pickerels occur primarily in sluggish, vegetated waters of pools, lakes, and swamps, and are carnivorous, feeding on smaller fish. Larger fishes, such as the striped bass (Morone saxatilis), bowfin (Amia calva), and gray weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), in turn, prey on the pickerels when they venture into larger rivers or estuaries.

These fishes reproduce by scattering spherical, sticky eggs in shallow, heavily vegetated waters. The eggs hatch in 11–15 days; the adults guard neither the eggs nor the young.

The E. americanus subspecies are not as highly prized as a game fish as their larger cousins, the northern pike and muskellunge, but they are caught by anglers. McClane's Standard Fishing Encyclopedia describes ultralight tackle as a sporty if overlooked method to catch these small but voracious pikes.

Lesueur originally classified the grass pickerel as E. vermiculatus, but it is now considered a subspecies of E. americanus.

E. americanus americanus is sometimes called the brook pickerel. There is no widely accepted English common collective name for the two E. americanus subspecies; "American pickerel" is a translation of the systematic name and the French brochet d'Amérique.


  1. ^ "New York State Freshwater Fishing Records". New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 9 November 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-04-22. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  2. ^ a b Stegemann, Eileen C. (1989). "Pikes - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation". New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Archived from the original on 2021-03-09. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  • Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2004). Esox americanus americanus in FishBase. October 2004 version.
  • Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2004). Esox americanus vermiculatus in FishBase. October 2004 version.
  • "Esox americanus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 5 December 2004.
  • Weinmand, M.L.; Lauer, T.E., "Diet of grass pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus in Indiana streams." Journal of Freshwater Ecology 22-3 (2007): 451-460
  • Midkiff, E.S.; Tarter, D.C., "Diet and growth of larval and juvenile grass pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus, and centralmudminnow, Umbra limi, in the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area, Cabell County West Virginia." Proceedings of West Virginia Academy of Science 68- 2-4 (1999): 37-46
  • Weed, A.C., "Pike, pickerel and muskalonge." Field Mus Nat Hist Zool Leaflet 9 (1927): 1-52
  • Cain, M.L.; Lauer, T.E.; Lau, J.K., "Habitat use of grass pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus in Indiana streams." American Midland Naturalists 160-1 (2008):96-109
  • Lachance, S., "Report on the situation of the Redfin Pickerel, Esox americanus americanus, in Canada." Canadian Field-Naturalist 115-4 (2001): 597-607

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