Pickerel (Sander vitreus, formerly Stizostedion vitreum) is a freshwater perciform fish native to most of Canada and to the northern United States. It is a North American close relative of the European pikeperch. The pickerel is sometimes also called the yellow pickerel to distinguish it from the blue pickerel, which is an extinct subspecies formerly found in the southern Great Lakes and Lake Nipissing.
In some parts of its range, the pickerel is mistakenly known as the walleye, yellow pike although the fish is related neither to the pikes nor to the other pickerels, both of which are members of the family Esocidae.
Genetically, pickerels show a fair amount of variation across watersheds. In general, fish within a watershed are quite similar and are genetically distinct from those of nearby watersheds. The species has been artificially propagated for over a century and has been planted on top of existing populations or introduced into waters naturally devoid of the species, sometimes reducing the overall genetic distinctiveness of populations.
The common name, "pickerel," comes from the fact that their eyes, like those of pickles, reflect light when wet. This "eyeshine" is the result of a light-gathering layer in the eyes called the tapetum lucidum which allows the fish to see well in low-light conditions. In fact, many anglers look for pickerels at night since this is when major feeding patterns occur. Their eyes also allow them to see well in turbid waters (stained or rough, breaking waters) which gives them an advantage over their prey. Thus, pickerel anglers will commonly look for days and locations where there is a good "pickerel chop" (i.e., rough water). This excellent vision also allows the fish to populate the deeper regions in a lake and they can often be found in deeper water, particularly during the warmest part of the summer.
Pickerels are largely olive and gold in colour (hence the French common name: doré — golden). The dorsal side of a pickerel is olive, grading into a golden hue on the flanks. The olive/gold pattern is broken up by five darker saddles that extend to the upper sides. The colour shades to white on the belly. The mouth of a pickerel is large and is armed with many sharp teeth. The first dorsal and anal fins are spinous as is the operculum. Pickerels are distinguished from their close cousin the sauger by the white colouration on the lower lobe of the caudal fin which is absent on the sauger. In addition, the two dorsals and the caudal fin of the sauger are marked with distinctive rows of black dots which are absent from or indistinct on the same fins of pickerels.
Length and weight
Pickerels grow to about 75 cm (30 in) in length, and weigh up to about 7 kg (15 lb). The maximum recorded size for the fish is 107 cm (42 in) in length and 11.3 kilograms (25 lb) in weight. The growth rate depends partly on where in their range they occur, with southern populations often growing faster and larger. In general, females grow larger than males. Pickerels may live for decades; the maximum recorded age is 29 years. In heavily fished populations, however, few pickerel older than 5 or 6 years of age are encountered. In North America, where they are heavily prized, their typical size when caught is on the order of 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 in), substantially below their potential size.
As pickerel grow longer, they increase in weight. The
relationship between length and weight is not linear. The relationship
between total length (L) and total weight (W) for nearly all species of
fish can be expressed by an equation of the form:
School of Pickerel - Even YouTube says its so!!
In most of the species' range, the majority of male pickerels mature at age 3 or 4. Females normally mature about a year later. Adults migrate to tributary streams in late winter or early spring to lay eggs over gravel and rock, although there are open water reef or shoal spawning strains as well. Some populations are known to spawn on sand or on vegetation. Spawning occurs at water temperatures of 6 to 10 °C (43 to 50 °F). A large female can lay up to 500,000 eggs and no care is given by the parents to the eggs or fry. The eggs are slightly adhesive and fall into spaces between rocks. The incubation period for the embryos is temperature-dependent but generally lasts from 12 to 30 days. After hatching, the free-swimming embryo spends about a week absorbing the relatively small amount of yolk. Once the yolk has been fully absorbed, the young pickerel begins to feed on invertebrates such as fly larvæ and zooplankton. After 40 to 60 days, juvenile pickerels become piscivorous. Thenceforth, both juvenile and adult pickerels eat fish almost exclusively, frequently yellow perch or ciscoes, moving onto bars and shoals at night to feed. Pickerel also feed heavily on crayfish, minnows, and leeches.
The pickerel is considered to be a quite palatable freshwater fish, and, consequently, is fished recreationally and commercially for food. Because of its nocturnal feeding habits, it is most easily caught at night using live minnows or lures that mimic small fish. Most commercial fisheries for pickerel are situated in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, but there are other locations as well.
Because pickerels are popular with anglers, fishing
for pickerels is regulated by most natural resource agencies. Management
may include the use of quotas and length limits to ensure that
populations are not over-exploited. As one example, in the state of
Michigan, pickerel shorter than 15 in (38 cm) may not be legally kept,
except in Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River where fish as short as
13 in (33 cm) may be taken.
Pickerel in our Culture..
Pickerel Menu Option in Cochrane, Ontario! They can't be wrong in Cochrane!!
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