Form, Function, and Fishing
style="font-size: 1em; font-weight: bold;">The When:
So when and how do you do it? Well, chain pickerel typically start biting good when water temperatures reach 40-42 oF before they spawn in the spring. This usually occurs when water temperatures hit around 46 oF. At Duck Creek we find ourselves reaching this point typically during the later half of February and early March. After spawning there is generally about a two week lull before pickerel start biting again. Our harsh winter seems to be delaying things a bit, but if we get some consistently warmer temperatures the pickerel fishing could really hit up.
And the “How”:
Since chain pickerel are sit and wait predators hiding along the edges of the “weeds”, that is where you need to go to find them. A couple spots to start are along the edges of the road and borrows in Pool 1 and in the different open pockets throughout the pool where the vegetation opens up. A variety of lures can work if you dance them shallowly in front of a hungry pickerel in these locations. Rapalas, mepps spinners, spinnerbaits, and even some top-water lures can seal the deal. They also readily strike at minnows, since that is what they are looking for anyway. You can use smaller minnow, but 4-5 inch ones and a #2 hook generally works.
The Fun and Yum:
The foraging tactics of chain pickerel allow you to really know when you have one on the line because they hit hard and fast. The following fight matches any other game fish out there. If you land one that is nearing the Master Angler Award credentials, you might consider taking it home for dinner. Chain pickerel have tasty white flesh, but there is a caveat. Since they are in the pike family they have y-bones, which can cause you to be fishing in your mouth for bones at dinner.
You can try to minimize this by the way you prepare the fish. Smoking them and then scraping the meat off the bones is one way to avoid the spiny unpleasantries. Treating them like you would a sucker and scoring the fillets before you deep fry them or using a pressure cooker are a couple other ways to reduce the chances of getting something stuck in your craw. Coming at it from a completely different angle is to just remove the bones by taking an extra step when you fillet them out. To do this you make a couple extra vertical cuts along the y-bones on either side to separate the meat from bones after slicing the fillet away from the fish. The bottom-line is that they are fun to catch and good to eat; it doesn’t get better than that.
Pool 1 is a great place to fish. The aquatic plants within this shallow lake help it to function this way because it provides the structure and diversity for a variety of species. The shadowy form of the chain pickerel is just one of these species that calls Duck Creek home. If you have the opportunity to get one on the end of your line, you might have the makings of a story to match one from a trip up north related to one of its larger cousins. Once things thaw back out after this wintery weekend, I’d invite you to come out and see whether the pickerel fishing is heating up.