Chain Pickerel

Chain pickerel side view photo with black background
Scientific Name
Esox niger
Esocidae (pikes) in the order Esociformes (mudminnows and pikes)

The chain pickerel has an elongated body, a snout shaped like a duck’s bill, and a large mouth with many sharp teeth. The back and sides are olive or yellowish brown with a chainlike pattern of dark lines. The dorsal fin is positioned far back on the body.

Similar species: The redfin pickerel (grass pickerel) is smaller, attaining an average size of 10 to 12 inches, but both species are seldom found in the same waters.


Total length: 16 to 22 inches.

Where To Find
image of Chain Pickerel distribution map

Limited to streams and some lakes of the southeastern Ozarks.

Streams and some lakes of the southeastern Ozarks. Inhabits clear, quiet waters where aquatic vegetation is abundant, particularly in backwater sloughs of streams. Adults lie motionless in dense stands of vegetation and ambush prey with a quick darting motion.

Adults are carnivorous and feed on other fishes. Young feed on small crustaceans and aquatic insects.

Game fish.

Life Cycle

They are random spawners. Instead of building a nest, they spread their eggs with a flick of their tail. A sticky coating on eggs allows them to adhere to vegetation. They live 8 to 9 years.

A favorite target of anglers.

Controls fishes, small crustaceans, and aquatic insects.

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Similar Species
About Fishes in Missouri
Missouri has more than 200 kinds of fish, more than are found in most neighboring states. Fishes live in water, breathe with gills, and have fins instead of legs. Most are covered with scales. Most fish in Missouri “look” like fish and could never be confused with anything else. True, lampreys and eels have snakelike bodies — but they also have fins and smooth, slimy skin, which snakes do not.