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Page 308

on its flanks. With a long, wide mouth filled with long, sharp teeth, the pickerel averages around 2 pounds, with larger specimens reaching weights two and three times that. Pickerel like to ambush their prey and thus are denizens of the weedbeds, typically ponds, backwaters, and coves with depths ranging from 2 to 15 feet or so.

Surprisingly, few fishermen specifically pursue chain pickerel. These fish often are bycatches of anglers after largemouth bass, as the habitats of the two species overlap. One reason, perhaps, for the pickerel's relative unpopularity is that its flesh, while mild and tasty, is quite bony and difficult to prepare. Still, the pickerel provides plenty of sport and is a favorite of young anglers throughout its range because of its feeding habits, which are quick, ferocious, and frequent.

A favorite fishing method is also quite simple: hooking a shiner or other minnow a few feet below a bobber and casting it near or into a weedbed. In clear waters, and if the angler is attentive and quiet, it's sometimes possible to watch a pickerel stalk its prey and eventually pounce on the minnow with lightning speed. Many other baits and lures will take pickerel, too. Diving crankbaits, spoons, and plastic worms are the most effective. Flyfishermen find great sport with pickerel by using large streamers fished slowly in and around the weeds.

Northern Pike

Originally found in the larger waters of the northeast and northern midwest states, stocking has broadened the range of the northern pike (Esox lucius) as far south as Pennsylvania and as far west as Montana. Like the chain pickerel, the northern pike has a long and thin body with a large, toothy mouth, but reaches much greater lengths and weights. It also shares the pickerel's voraciousness; pike have tremendous appetites and an attack-style of feeding.

The average size of northern pike depends on the locale2 to 4 pounds in some waters, 5 to 7 in othersalthough some lakes routinely give up pike in the 10- to 20-pound class. Northerns range throughout the water column but seem to frequent weed beds in lakes with close access to deep water, as well as humps or bars in deep river pools.

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