Tactics For Trophy Chain Pickerel
Tactics For Trophy Chain Pickerel
The Chain Pickerel is distinguished by it's chain like pattern along it's body. The Chain Pickerel doesn't reach the same proportions as its
counterpart, the Northern Pike.
LOCATIONS AND TACTICS:
Chain Pickerel hit well in the winter months, and even through the ice. They usually cruise the same areas as other gamefish such as largemouth bass, crappies, yellow perch, and other panfish.
Pickerel will savagely attack schools of baitfish, or individuals, whatever is the easiest prey at the time. I have caught Chain Pickerel with Catfish lodged in their mouths that were too large to swallow, and they still were attacking other baits. I have even found Chain Pickerel laying dead or dying, on the surface with huge bluegills stuck in their mouths, yet at other times, only want a small bait on or near the bottom.
The best locations for Chain Pickerel in the winter is along points, with drop-offs near deeper water, and areas that contain some underwater cover and vegetation nearby. They will be shallow at times, even in very cold water, but are always near the baitfish, and deeper water escape routes. They can be found by deep water brushpiles also, due to the fact that these same areas hold other types of prey, and panfish, thus the pickerel aren't far away.
Contrary to popular belief, Chain Pickerel can be caught in the dark, but this is more of a rare occurrence than a standard rule of
thumb. In the early spring, many of the pickerel will be in water near the shoreline, and emerging grasses, and other vegetation, gorging
on baitfish, and preparing to spawn.
The best way to catch larger chain pickerel is to use a small jig such as a shad dart, in yellow/red, or yellow/white combinations, in
a 1/64 ounce size, up to about an 1/8 ounce. These are really small baits, and a lot of finesse is required to catch chains on these
You first need to find the areas that will hold the pickerel; drop-offs, near points, humps, vegetation, and other cover. You should rig this jig on 4-6 pound test line. This is what makes the lure have the correct action and depth that trigger some of the bigger fish. It is the same principle as smallmouth fisherman use on Pickwick. They use 6 pound test line, not because the fish can see it, but because it allows the lure to maintain the proper fall, depth, and action, that catch the larger fish.
I like to rig two rods, with a shad dart on one, and a hair jig on the other. I start by letting out about a hundred feet of line, and slowly trolling these baits in wide, 360 degree circles over the chosen areas. You will pick up leaves and grass if you're doing it right, if you don't. slow down. The majority of strikes will feel like nothing more than grass or leaves on the lure, but most of time it's a big Chain Pickerel!
I can't overemphasize the importance of watching the line! If the line moves, or does ANYTHING, that it hasn't been doing, then set the hook. You can't set the hook the same way you do with a bass. It takes a slower short snap in the wrist, while reeling the line up tight, and applying just the right amount of pressure. The drag setting is critical, since you are using such light line, and light equipment.
Most of the time, I take the anti-reverse off, and backreel. They will make some long runs and head to the deeper water on the bottom, and try to wrap you up in the trolling motor, and break you off under the boat as they get close. The only way to get good at landing them, is to catch them. Practice is the only way to get a feel for landing them on this light equipment. If you don't get any takers after working 2 or 3 of your best areas, then add a small minnow to the back of the lures, but go to a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce, in brown/orange or lime green.
Troll them the same way in these areas again, while casting another rod to search the areas, and impart more action to the bait to try
to develop a pattern that they want that day. Pickerel are ferocious one day, and finicky the next. They are unpredictable sometimes, so
don't give up.
You need 3 or 4 spinning rods for these tactics, in the 5 and 5 1/2 foot range, ultra-light to light action, with a good degree of
sensitivity. I like G.Loomis rods, but there are other good light action rods you can use for this as well.
Here in the Northeast, (Delaware, New Jersey, and New York), in particular, some of the places that hold the largest chain pickerel are Horsey's Pond, in Lower Delaware, Killens Pond in Dover, and the Nanticoke River, (Broad Creek), in Seaford.
In New York I like Lake Champlain, and in New Jersey, Farrington, Union, Assunpink, and Hopetcong, are among some of the better lakes, although there are many more that produce big chains as well. Employ some of these tactics this winter and in the spring on some of these lakes and I think you will be surprised at the results. You won't catch as many pickerel using some of these methods, but they will be BIG!
Steve vonBrandt sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, TTI-Blakemore, Okuma, and Ambush Lures. 1998 BBWC, NAFC Hall Of Fame angler. Reeltimeanglers at http://www.reeltimeanglers.com
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