Chain Pickerel Management and Fishing in Pennsylvania
Prepared by R. Lorantas, D. Kristine and C. Hobbs
PFBC Warmwater Unit
2005 (stocking numbers updated after 2005)
Goal: Maintain or create enhanced sport fisheries through harvest management, judicious stocking that recognize naturally produced chain pickerel, and enlist habitat management approaches that foster increased density of naturally produced and maintenance stocked chain pickerel.
Chain pickerel occur and are native to Pennsylvania’s Atlantic slope rivers. Chain pickerel are found in river and stream (lotic) habitats and lake and reservoir (lentic) habitats within the Delaware River, Susquehanna River, and Potomac River drainages. Self-sustaining populations occur throughout eastern Pennsylvania. Robust populations are found in the many natural and semi-natural lakes in northeastern Pennsylvania. Chain Pickerel are rarely found outside of their native range in Pennsylvania.
Sport harvest limits and stocking represent the most widely applied techniques used by fishery biologists in Pennsylvania to sustain and enhance sport fisheries. Stocking is prescribed to counter declining chain pickerel populations and to introduce them into man-made habitats (reservoirs) that are expected to sustain fisheries. Pickerel fingerlings have been stocked to bolster populations that are diminished or where introductions were expected to yield self-sustaining populations. All chain pickerel stocked in Pennsylvania are derived from wild-caught broodfish from lakes in northeastern Pennsylvania and reared to fingerling size (Table 1).
Chain pickerel stocking by the
Fish and Boat Commission.
Latest Stocking Information
Inland harvest of chain pickerel is limited to 6 fish of at least 15 inches (approximately 0.7 pounds). It requires approximately 4 years for a chain pickerel to attain legal size (Fig. 1). In addition, a season closure extends from mid-March through the first Saturday in May, which prevents harvest during the spawning period. The minimum size limit insures adequate numbers of mature pickerel are available for spawning. Flooded riparian zones with aquatic vegetation characterize spawning and nursery habitats in lakes, rivers and streams. These features in conjunction with brown, bog-stained water, are typically associated with presence of chain pickerel.
Figure 1. Average length of chain pickerel and northern pike collected by fisheries biologists in assessment gear in Pennsylvania (March-June).
Biologists regularly sample fish populations to measure their density and size structure, fish habitat is also described by measuring water productivity, aquatic vegetation density and other features. Following such evaluations management plans are prescribed to enhance density and size structure of chain pickerel within resource limits. In association with these evaluations growth of chain pickerel is examined by measuring length, weight, and taking a scale sample to determine age. We have tabulated average ages and weights for a variety of lengths of chain pickerel in Pennsylvania (Table 2). Anglers find these tables useful in approximating the weight and age of their catch. Growth of chain pickerel, annual stocking levels of fingerling, and angler harvest of chain pickerel are important considerations in developing management plans that produce desirable fishing opportunities.
Table 2. Average weight and average age of
Tabulating catch and harvest by anglers from various waterways is essential in developing management plans. Information derived from creel surveys frequently yields information of interest to anglers since seasonal peaks in catch occur for most species. Surveys show that chain pickerel can be caught most any time of year, generally though, highest catch per hour occurs in winter on medium size reservoirs (Fig. 2). Although creel sampling on large reservoirs does not cover all seasons, springtime yields good catch rates on large reservoirs over the period examined (Fig. 3). On rivers, catch rates in spring are also high (Fig. 4). With fishing destinations identified from maps on this site and information describing good times of year to catch chain pickerel, anglers need only select an effective bait or lure. Anglers catch chain pickerel with live minnows, spinners, spoons, and minnow shaped artificial baits. Catching a chain pickerel through the ice on a winter day is an experience many Pennsylvania anglers wait for all year.
Figure 2. Average catch per angler hour of chain pickerel from medium size Pennsylvania reservoirs.
Figure 3. Average catch per angler hour of chain pickerel from large size Pennsylvania reservoirs.
Figure 4. Average catch per angler hour of chain pickerel from Pennsylvania rivers.
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