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Similarities And Differences Among New York's Pike

Similiarities and differences among New York's pike species
Species Description Habitat Reproduction Feeding Fishing Information Comments
Chain Pickerel 15-20" long

Fully scaled cheeks and gill covers

8 sensory pores on undersurface of lower jaw

Green to bronze with chain-link markings on sides

Dark bar beneath eye
Quiet water with heavy weedy growth Spawns in Spring (April-May)

Migrate into swampy or marshy backwater areas

Scatter their adhesive eggs at random
Ambushes single prey

Eats primarily fish and occasionally frogs

Peak feeding time - dawn and dusk
Popular sportfish - esp. for ice-fishermen

Relatively easy to catch & good fighters

Fish along weed beds in shallow water with minnows, worms, spoons, spinners and jigs

Good tasting, but very bony
Gets name from dark chain-link marking on sides

Popular sportfish in many lakes and rivers in SE NY
Redfin Pickerel 6-10" long

Fully scaled checks and gill covers

8 sensory pores on undersurface of lower jaw

Olive green to dark brown with wavy vertical bars on sides

Dark bar beneath eye

Dorsal fin darkly pigmented orange and red
Weedy areas of sluggish streams and lakes and ponds

Sometimes in brackish water
Spawns early spring (March-April)

Scatter adhesive eggs over dense vegetation along grassy stream banks or in flooded backwaters
Eats fish, small crustacean, crayfish and insects Not actively pursued by anglers because of small size Smallest of NY's pike

Closely resembles the chain pickerel

Uncommon in NY - restricted to Long Island & eastern New York

Gets name from orange to red colored dorsal fin
Grass Pickerel 8-15" long

Fully scaled cheeks and gill covers

8 sensory pores on undersurface of lower jaw

Pale to dark green with thin, wavy vertical bars

Dark bar beneath eye
Prefer heavily vegetated areas of slow-moving streams, lakes & ponds Spawn early spring (March-April)

Scatter adhesive eggs over vegetation in upper portions of flooded streams and in marshes
Eats fish, crayfish and insects Of little interest to NY anglers Subspecies of the redfin

Spotty distribution in NY
Northern Pike 25-36" long

Fully scaled cheeks, gill covers have scaleless lower half

8-12 sensory pores on undersurface of lower jaw

Dark green to brown with light bean-shaped spots (dark background-light markings)
Wide range of habitats

Prefer weedy portions of rivers, ponds and lakes

Large adults sometimes offshore in deeper water
Spawn in spring (April-May)

Migrate into flooded marshes during night

Scatter adhesive eggs over vegetation
Ambush single prey

Feeds on whatever is most available

Eats primarily fish, but also crayfish, frogs, ducks, mice and muskrats
Important sportfish

Taken through the ice as well as in open water

Fish near or in weed beds with large spoons, spinners, plugs or large baitfish

Delicious to eat. Because of large size, bones are more easily removed than a pickerel's
Very adaptable - are one of the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world

Can grow quite large - over 40 lbs. Current NY record is 46 lbs. 2 oz.

Help control populations of smaller fish species
Muskellunge 30-46" long

Cheeks and gill covers only scaled on the upper half

12-18 sensory pores on undersurface of lower jaw

Color ranges from barred to spotted to plain, but always has light background with dark markings
Cool lakes and large rivers-sometimes staying in moderately swift water Spawn in mid-late spring (later than northern pike)

Spawn at night in shallow, flooded areas

Scatter semi-adhesive eggs over vegetation
Ambush single prey

Move very little other than to dart out & grab prey

Eats primarily fish, but also mice ducks and muskrats
Because of large size and rarity, held in high regard by anglers

Can take experienced fisherman 50 hrs. to catch one. Use of a guide is recommended

Best method: troll with large plugs, spinners or baitfish
Largest member of the pike family, and NY's largest freshwater sportfish

In NY are two strains: the Great Lakes and Ohio strain

Great sportfish Good eating, but most people practice "catch and release" to ensure future limited populations
Tiger Muskellunge 24-38 " long

Fully scaled cheeks, gill covers have scaleless lower half

10-16 sensory pores on undersurface of lower jaw

Color: varies, but light background with dark barred markings
Specific habitat preferences not documented - assumed to be intermediate to northern pike and muskellunge Are sterile hybrids - no successful spawning Ambush single prey

Eats primarily fish, but also frogs, mice, ducks and muskrats
Important gamefish

Fish near dropoffs, weed beds and other structure with large baitfish or large plugs and spoons
Hybrid cross between northern pike and muskellunge

Occasionally occur naturally. Most tigers in NY waters have been stocked to provide trophy fishing