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Redfin Pickerel


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Esox americanus

CHARACTERISTICS: The cheeks and gill covers on the redfin pickerel are fully scaled, while the top of the head has few if any scales. A darkened vertical bar beneath the eye slants slightly backward. In cross section, the body is oval or cigar-shaped. The back is dark green to brown. Color patterns on the sides are variable, from a green-and-white reticulate pattern resembling that of a brick wall to green, forward-slanting vertical bars. Along the lower sides, fingerlike green projections extend downward and forward onto a cream or yellow venter.

ADULT SIZE: 7 to 12 in (178 to 300 mm). The first Alabama state angling record (9 oz) was caught from Crosby Creek in Washington County on September 2, 2002. The current record redfin pickerel is 11 ounces; Frank Dickey of Chatom caught the fish in Armstrong Creek, Washington County, on August 24, 2010.

DISTRIBUTION: Crossman (1966) distinguishes two subspecies. The redfin pickerel, Esox americanus americanus, is an Atlantic Coast form, its range extending from New York south to eastern drainages in Georgia. The grass pickerel, E. a. vermiculatus, occurs throughout the Mississippi basin, including the Tennessee River in northern Alabama. Redfin pickerel inhabiting Gulf Coast drainages from the Mobile basin east into Florida and southwestern Georgia are intergrades between the two subspecies. Redfin pickerel are more widespread and abundant below the Fall Line. Few collections are available above the Fall Line or in the Tennessee River drainage.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Redfin pickerel usually occur in clear streams having slow to moderate currents and abundant aquatic vegetation or undercut banks. We have also collected them in swamps and isolated overflow pools of rivers. The young occur in schools, but adults are solitary, aggressive predators. An individual will lie motionless along the edge of aquatic vegetation or an undercut bank for long periods. When unsuspecting prey appears, the fish darts out, grasps the prey, and swallows it head first. Large insect larvae, crayfishes, and fishes are staples of the adult diet. Redfin pickerel live to six years; grass pickerel reach seven years (Carlander, 1969).

REMARKS: Anglers are not likely to encounter this species, since it usually inhabits small streams.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Gmelin described the redfin pickerel in 1788.

Esox means pike.
Americanus means American.

This copyrighted information is from the Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call redfin pickerel: grass pickerel, little pickerel, and barred pickerel, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2).

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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