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Differences Between a Pike and a Pickerel

Pike vs Pickerel

For those who are not avid fans of fish, many would think that “Pickerel” is the term for the hatchlings of a Pike. But actually, it isn’t. Pike and Pickerel are two different types of fish, but both can be found in bodies of fresh water.

You can commonly catch a Pike in northern climates, hence it is also called a Northern Pike. On the other hand, Pickerel is also popularly known as “Chain Pickerel.” Most often, Pikes are mistaken for Pickerels, or the other way around. For starters, even fishing experts have difficulties in distinguishing which is which. Both Pike and Pickerel are spotted fishes, but to tell them apart, you need to carefully examine and compare their spots.

In fishing forums, to distinguish the Northern Pike from the Chain Pickerel, you have to see their spots. The Northern Pike has spots that are oval in shape that do not run into each other while the Chain Pickerel has spots that run into each other just like a chain. To put it simply, the Chain Pickerel has more spots than the Northern Pike. But if you don’t have both fish together for a comparison, it can be difficult to know for certain. It is also said that the Northern Pike has markings or spots on its fins while the Chain Pickerel does not have any.

If you will also observe their jaws, the Northern Pike’s jawline goes back or is stretched more towards its eyes than a Chain Pickerel’s jaw line. This difference can also be spotted if you will directly and carefully look at their markings.

For a quicker decision on which is which, you can tell their difference by their size. A Northern Pike grows a lot bigger than the Chain Pickerel. And here’s some advice from an angler, if you see that the fish you caught seems to have the ability to gobble up your foot or hand, most likely it is a Northern Pike. That’s how big it is. A Northern Pike is big enough to dismantle your foot or hand (only if they have really sharp teeth).

When it comes to the fishes’ gill covers, the Northern Pike’s lower portion does not have any scales. And guess what, the Chain Pickerel’s entire gill area is covered with scales. If you still cannot see the difference, you might as well check their eyes. If the fish has a teardrop mark under its eye, it is a Pickerel.

To successfully catch a Pike, or if you would like a Pickerel, you should know their spots. Both fish love shady areas. And this is the best place you need to cast your fishing lines. But during the summertime, they mostly nibble on weeds. These fish like eating when the sun is high. The best months to catch these fish are during the months of March and April. To have a successful catch, you’d better bait something meaty and wiggling on the hook like worms. They also love anything meaty. When you catch a Northern Pike and a Chain Pickerel, be careful. They have a set of sharp teeth.


  1. Pike and Pickerel are two different types of fish.
  2. A Pike is also called a Northern Pike while a Pickerel is also called a Chain Pickerel.
  3. Both Pike and Pickerel are freshwater fishes.
  4. The Pike is larger in size than the Pickerel.
  5. The Pickerel has more spots than the Pike, but the Pike has spots on its fins.
  6. The jawline of the Pike goes back more towards its eyes than the Pickerel.
  7. The teeth of the Pike and the Pickerel are very sharp.

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  1. Pretty lousy article if it doesn’t even mention the Grass and Redfin pickerel.

  2. I’ve fished a lot for pickerel and thro the pike back, slimy boney bastards. I’ve never seen a pike with the large sharp Dorsel Fin that’s on the pickerel

  3. We’ve been fishing pike and pickerel (walleye) on Georgian Bay for more than 35 years. While pickerel are easier to fillet because of the pike’s Y-bone, pike always wins the taste test. One of the reasons for this is that a pike will not bottom feed and eat dead food like a pickerel. Hence, the pike’s flesh is whiter, cleaner and better tasting than the pickerel’s.

  4. Thank you, responder but not author, for mentioning taste. Never forget taste.

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