Ounce for ounce, the pickerel strikes as hard and fights as well as any of Texas's freshwater fishes. The late A. J. McClane, the legendary Field & Stream fishing editor, called the pickerel "Chained Lightning."
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries biologist Mike Ryan agrees. "Pickerel strike tremendously hard. They're opportunistic feeders that will ambush anything they think they can handle."
The chain pickerel is a member of the pike family, which includes the larger and more glamorous northern pike and muskellunge. There are two species of pickerel in Texas, the chain and its smaller relative, the grass pickerel.
The chain pickerel's name is a reference to the dark, chain like pattern on its sides. Pickerel don't grow large; a three-pound fish is exceptional. Like its larger kin, the pickerel is elongated and thin with a mouthful of long, sharp, teeth.
With its long slender profile and dorsal and anal fins set near the rear of its body, the pickerel is a perfect ambush-style predator.
The Best Little Pickerel Lake in Texas
Although pickerel are native to various drainages throughout the eastern third of the United States, they occur naturally in Texas only in the Cypress River drainage, which includes Caddo Lake, Lake O' the Pines, Lone Star Lake, Welsh Reservoir, Lake Bob Sandlin and Lake Cypress Springs.
The Texas side of Caddo Lake provides the best pickerel fishing by far. The northern quarter of Lake O' the Pines above Highway 155 also provides good pickerel fishing, however there are progressively fewer pickerel in reservoirs further up the drainage.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department stocked pickerel in several East Texas impoundments, primarily for biological control of bream and other small sunfish. In general, these stockings didn't result in viable pickerel fisheries.
One exception, however, is Lake Dangerfield at Dangerfield State Park. The 80-acre lake provides fair pickerel fishing during the cooler months. Pickerel are occasionally caught in other East Texas reservoirs as wellthe state record pickerel, which weighed 4.7 pounds, was taken from Pat Mayse Reservoir in 1996.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication