Chain pickerel are long, slender fish that are known for their chain-like patterning. They are a member of the pike family and have a dark bar below their eyes and fully scaled cheek and gill covers. They can grow to be two feet long and their average weight is 2-4 pounds.


Young chain pickerel feed on insects and crustaceans. Juvenile and adult chain pickerel feed mostly on fish, but their diet can also include small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Chain pickerel are normally solitary and often wait and hide in areas of aquatic vegetation to strike prey that swim their way.


Osprey and bald eagles. Great blue herons will eat young chain pickerel

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Chain pickerel spawn in early spring. They will attach their eggs in ribbon-like masses to underwater vegetation. Chain pickerel do not guard their eggs. The female fish lays chains of sticky eggs on aquatic vegetation in wetlands. The eggs spawn early in the spring so that young can grow big enough to eat other young fish species that are born later.

Fish will reach sexual maturity at four years of age. Chain pickerel live up to 10 years. They are a fast growing species which can reach a full length of up to 2 feet by the time they are 3 years old.

Did You Know?

  • Chain pickerel have many nicknames including “federation pike,” “southern pike,” and “grass pike.” In southern states they are also called “jacks” or “jack fish.”
  • Egg masses can contain up to 50,000 eggs.
  • The world-record chain pickerel was caught in Homerville, Georgia, in 1961 and weighed 9-pounds, 6-ounces.

Sources and Additional Information