Fact Sheet

Chain Pickerel


Esox niger | Other Names: Pickerel, Water Wolf, Pike


Long, narrow, torpedo-shaped, green body with a darker back and white belly. Adults have chain-like pattern on sides; juveniles lack pattern. Long snout filled with many large, sharp teeth. Tail fin is deeply forked. Average length is 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm). Often very slimy to the touch.

Habitat & Impact

Inhabits shallow, vegetated ponds, lakes and sluggish streams. Chain Pickerel are voracious predators and are known to consume fish, insects, mice and snakes. Within just a few years, native speckled trout population can be decimated. Not only transforms aquatic ecosystems, but also negatively impacts traditional sport fishing opportunities.


In Nova Scotia since 1940s due to accidental and illegal introductions.

Pattern of light and dark green chains on side

Native Alternative

Native fish species, like Speckled Trout and White Perch, are exciting and tasty sport fish. The presence of Chain Pickerel often eliminates populations of these preferred native sport fish.

Key Identification Features

Long narrow fish, black and green chain pattern on side, snout full of sharp teeth.

A snout full of sharp teeth © PERRY MUNROE
A snout full of sharp teeth
Prefers shallow, vegetated waters
Torpedo-shaped body

Interesting Fact

Chain Pickerel is known to wander into brackish waters where it can survive for some time.

Stewardship Actions

If you’re in a lake or river that is known to have Chain Pickerel, keep your fishing gear, boating gear, livewell and buckets clean so that you’re not accidentally transporting fish or fish eggs into another watershed. It is illegal to use or possess Chain Pickerel for bait in Nova Scotia. Report any new Chain Pickerel sites to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture at aquaculture@novascotia.ca or 902.424.4560.