Pike Vs. Pickerel (How To Tell Them Apart?)


Are you tired of mistaking pike and pickerel when you’re out fishing? Do you want to impress your friends with your fish identification skills? Look no further! In this article, we will delve into the world of pike and pickerel, and show you how to tell them apart like a pro.

These freshwater fish may look similar, but they have distinct differences that will help you identify them with ease. From size and weight variations to body coloration, patterns, and fin colors, we will explore every detail that sets pike and pickerel apart.

We will even discuss their distribution and coexistence, so you know where to find them. Plus, we’ll reveal the secrets of catching these elusive fish using different methods and baits.

Get ready to become an expert in distinguishing pike from pickerel, and take your fishing game to the next level!

Key Takeaways

  • Pike and pickerel can be distinguished by their body coloration, with pike having a darker green color and pickerel having a lighter greenish to yellowish color.
  • The flank pattern is also a distinguishing factor, with pike having light spots or short bars, while pickerel have a dark, chain-like pattern.
  • Pike are larger in size, with an average length of 20-30 inches and a weight of 5-10 pounds, while pickerel are smaller, with an average length of 10-20 inches and a weight of 2-4 pounds.
  • The behavior of pike and pickerel also differs, with pike being more aggressive, having a voracious appetite, and displaying predatory behavior, while pickerel are smaller and more cautious.

Pike vs. Pickerel: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to pike vs. pickerel, there are some similarities and differences to take note of.

Let’s start with their habitat preferences and behavior.

Both pike and pickerel are freshwater fish, but they have slightly different preferences. Pike can be found in many regions of North America and the entire northern hemisphere, while pickerel are limited to the eastern parts of North America.

In terms of behavior, pike are known for their aggressive nature and larger size. They are fierce predators and often ambush their prey. On the other hand, pickerel are smaller in size and tend to be more cautious. They are also skilled hunters, but they rely on stealth and patience to catch their prey.

So, whether it’s the habitat they prefer or their hunting style, pike and pickerel have their own unique characteristics that set them apart.

Size and Weight Variations

When distinguishing between pike and pickerel, size and weight variations play a significant role. Pike are typically larger and heavier than pickerel. They can reach an average length of 20-30 inches, with some even growing over 50 inches in length. Their average weight ranges from 5-10 pounds, but they can weigh even more.

On the other hand, pickerel are smaller in size. They average between 10-20 inches in length, with a maximum length of around 25 inches. In terms of weight, they are also lighter, weighing an average of 2-4 pounds.

Therefore, if you come across a fish that is larger in size and heavier in weight, you can be confident that it is a pike.

Body Coloration

To distinguish between the two, notice that you’ll see a darker green body coloration in pike, while pickerel have a lighter greenish to yellowish color.

The body coloration of these fish is not only a visual characteristic but also a reflection of their habitat preferences. Pike, with their darker green hue, are well-suited for blending into the murky depths of their preferred habitats, which include lakes, rivers, and even brackish waters.

On the other hand, pickerel’s lighter greenish to yellowish color allows them to camouflage themselves among aquatic vegetation and shallow, weedy areas where they thrive.

Understanding the nuances of body coloration can help you identify these fish accurately and appreciate the evolutionary adaptations that make them successful predators in their respective habitats.


Notice the distinct differences in patterns between the two fish: pike have light spots or short bars on their flanks, while pickerel have a dark, chain-like pattern. These patterns not only add to the aesthetic appeal of these fish but also play a role in their survival and behavior. The light spots or bars on the pike’s flanks help them blend into their surroundings, making them excellent ambush predators. On the other hand, the dark, chain-like pattern of the pickerel provides them with camouflage, allowing them to remain hidden from their prey.

In terms of spawning behavior, both pike and pickerel are known to spawn in the spring. Pike prefer shallow, weedy areas for spawning, while pickerel tend to spawn in shallow bays or marshy areas. As for feeding habits, both fish are voracious predators, feeding on a variety of smaller fish, insects, and amphibians. Their sharp teeth and powerful jaws enable them to catch and consume their prey with ease.

To summarize, while pike and pickerel may share similar habitats and feeding habits, their distinct patterns and spawning behavior set them apart. So, next time you come across a fish with light spots or a dark, chain-like pattern, you’ll know whether it’s a pike or a pickerel.

Fin Colors

Take a look at the fin colors of these fish and you’ll easily distinguish between them.

The pike, with its large fins, often displays reddish or brownish hues, adorned with dark spots. These vibrant colors give the pike a striking appearance, reflecting its aggressive nature.

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On the other hand, the pickerel showcases smaller, paler fins, devoid of any dark spots. This subtle contrast in fin colors adds to the pickerel’s unique charm.

When it comes to aggression, the pike takes the crown. Known for its voracious appetite and predatory behavior, the pike is more aggressive compared to the pickerel.

As far as habitats go, pike and pickerel have different preferences. Pike can be found in various regions of North America and the entire northern hemisphere, while pickerel are limited to the eastern parts of North America.

Gill Plate Characteristics

Check out the gill plate characteristics to easily differentiate between these two fish.

The gill plate adaptations of pike and pickerel can provide fascinating insights into the evolution of these remarkable creatures.

Pike have a unique feature where the lower half of their gill plate lacks scales, while pickerel have gill plates that are entirely covered in scales.

This distinction is a result of their distinct ecological niches and evolutionary paths.

The pike’s unscaled lower gill plate allows for increased water flow, aiding in their pursuit of larger prey and their ability to thrive in various habitats.

On the other hand, the pickerel’s fully scaled gill plate provides protection and support, allowing them to efficiently extract oxygen from the water as they navigate their preferred, shallower environments.

Understanding these gill plate characteristics can help you appreciate the remarkable adaptations that have allowed pike and pickerel to survive and thrive in their respective habitats.


Now that you know the distinct characteristics of the gill plates for pike and pickerel, let’s dive into their distribution. Understanding their habitat preferences will give you a deeper insight into these fascinating fish.

When it comes to pike vs. pickerel, their distribution tells an interesting story. Pike can be found in many regions of North America and throughout the entire northern hemisphere. They have a wide range and can adapt to various environments.

On the other hand, pickerel are more limited in their distribution, primarily found in the eastern parts of North America. This difference in distribution highlights the unique ecological roles they play within their respective habitats. Pike, with their broader range, contribute to the overall balance of aquatic ecosystems on a larger scale.

Meanwhile, pickerel have a more localized impact, shaping the dynamics of their specific habitats. Understanding their distribution adds another layer to the fascinating world of pike vs. pickerel.


Explore the unique phenomenon of pike and pickerel coexisting in northeastern parts of the United States. In this region, you’ll find these two species of fish sharing the same waters, creating a fascinating dynamic. Here are three intriguing aspects to consider:

  1. Habitat Preferences: Despite their coexistence, pike and pickerel have slightly different habitat preferences. Pike tend to favor larger bodies of water, such as lakes and reservoirs, while pickerel are often found in smaller bodies of water like ponds and slow-moving streams.

  2. Feeding Behaviors: Pike are known for their aggressive and voracious feeding habits. They are apex predators and will prey on smaller fish, frogs, and even small mammals. Pickerel, on the other hand, have a more opportunistic feeding style. They will feed on smaller fish, insects, and even crustaceans.

  3. Interactions: While pike and pickerel coexist in the same waters, they don’t typically interact with each other. They occupy different niches within the ecosystem, minimizing competition for resources. However, there may be instances where they compete for prey or territory, leading to occasional interactions.

Overall, the coexistence of pike and pickerel in northeastern parts of the United States is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of these fascinating fish species.

Catching Methods

To catch pike and pickerel, you can use lures like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and spoons, as well as live baits such as minnows and shiners. Each of these baits and fishing techniques offers a unique advantage when it comes to targeting these elusive fish. For pike, using larger lures like crankbaits and spinnerbaits can be effective in attracting their attention due to their predatory nature. Jerkbaits, on the other hand, can mimic injured prey and trigger a pike’s instinct to strike. When it comes to pickerel, using smaller crankbaits and spoons can be more effective as they tend to prefer smaller prey. Live baits like minnows and shiners can also be successful in enticing both pike and pickerel to bite. Experimenting with different baits and fishing techniques is key to finding the best approach for catching these exciting fish.

Best Bait Pike Pickerel
Lures Crankbaits, Spinnerbaits, Jerkbaits Spoons, Spinnerbaits, smaller Crankbaits
Live Baits Minnows, Shiners Minnows
Fishing Techniques Aggressive retrieve, Jerking motions Slow and steady retrieve


Check out the impressive records for both pike and pickerel catches! When it comes to pike, the world record stands at a whopping 55lb 1oz. Just imagine reeling in a monster fish like that!

But let’s not forget about pickerel. While not as large as pike, the biggest pickerel ever caught weighed in at an impressive 9lb 6oz. That’s still a hefty catch!

These records showcase the potential for some truly epic fishing experiences. Whether you’re targeting pike or pickerel, these fish have the ability to put up a real fight and test your angling skills.

So, if you’re looking for a challenge and a chance to break some records of your own, grab your gear and head out to the water. Who knows, you might just land the next world record pike or the biggest pickerel ever caught!

About the author

Kimberly is an experienced angler and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for all things fishing. She has been honing her skills on the water for over 7 years, mastering various techniques and tactics for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

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