The Chain pickerel, Esox niger (syn. Esox reticulatus), is a species of freshwater fish in the pike family (family Esocidae) of order Esociformes. It is also known as the Federation pike or Federation pickerel. Its range is along the eastern coast of North America from southern Canada to Florida, and west to Texas.
The Chain pickerel has a distinctive chainlike pattern on its sides and its body resembles that of the Northern pike. It typically reaches 24 inches in length with a weight of 3-5 pounds. The U.S. record is over 9 pounds.
The Chain pickerel feeds primarily on smaller fish which it ambushes from cover with rapid lunges and secures with its sharp teeth.
It is a popular sport fish. It is an energetic fighter on the line. Anglers after pickerel have success with live minnows, spinnerbaits, spoon lures, and other lures. Practically every bass lure can be effective for pickerel, although they seem to be particularly susceptible to flashy lures, which imitate small prey fish. Dragging a plastic worm, lizard, frog, and other soft plastics can also be extremely effective.
In ponds and smaller lakes however, some anglers see pickerel as a threat to trout populations and trout restocking efforts. It is sometimes considered an easy-to-bag “trash fish”, and not particularly tasty. A commonly used nickname in the southeast for this fish is the Southern Pike.