June 25, 2017
My Old Friend by Steve Lamascus
June 25, 2017

Isn’t This a Fine Pickerel

Did you know there are pike right here in Texas?

Well, sort of.

The chain pickerel, a close cousin of both the northern pike and muskellunge (musky) can be found right here in local river and bayou systems, especially in the Sabine drainage.

Years ago my Dad caught one in a cast net and brought it home to show me before taking it back to the water to release.

As a little boy who constantly read Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, I was enamored with the idea we had a pike right here at home. It seemed like you could not pick up a copy of those magazines without seeing a huge pike or musky.

Chain Pickerel

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), chain pickerels are usually olive-green or yellowish-brown on the back and sides, shading to a creamy yellow underneath.

There is a distinctive pattern of interlocking dark bands on the back and sides that is reminiscent of a chain-link fence. During their first year, they may reach 12-14 inches in length.

Growth slows somewhat during the second year when they may attain lengths of 1.5 feet. In Texas they typically reach sizes of three to four pounds and about two feet in length.

The chain pickerel is distributed along the Atlantic coast of North America from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia south to Florida.

The species is found in the Mississippi River drainage from the Gulf Coast as far north as Illinois and Indiana, and may be found in Gulf drainages as far west as the Sabine and Red rivers in Texas.

I have found them in Adams Bayou in Orange County, and they are extremely abundant in the shallow, bottomland areas around Deweyville although most are small. This is on the south end of their range. Virtually all of the river and lake systems in upper East Texas have then and in fact Lake O’ the Pines has what many consider to be a trophy chain pickerel fishery. Pat Mayse has some hefty fish as well and produced the state record in 1996.

It weighed 4.75 pounds, measured 23.75 inches and was caught by angler Robert Finch. 

Another intriguing freshwater fish is the American eel, a species that occasionally surprises trotline fishermen. These eels have a fascinating life history.

According to TPWD, adult eels spend most of their lives in freshwater, although the amount of time may vary among individuals. At some point, however, adults leave their freshwater habitat and move toward the Sargasso Sea.

By the time American eels get close to the coast they are about six inches in length. The species begins to develop coloration only when the young reach near-shore areas. Once they reach freshwater, females continue to migrate deep inland as far up rivers and tributaries as they can. Males remain much closer to coastline areas. Eels tend to hide under rocks during the day, and venture out only at night to feed.”

The males and some young eels are caught at the jetties and at certain times of year in the surf. The biggest, however, are in the river systems. The state record is 6.45 pounds and measured 42 inches. The world record was 9.25 pounds.

When venturing into the Gulf of Mexico, we can also find moray eels, a species with large, sharp teeth that can grow up to eight feet in length. These are found around reefs and oil rigs and are rarely encountered by fishermen. Divers occasionally see them, especially around the Flower Gardens reef out of Galveston.

We talk in some form or fashion about reds, specks, flounder, crappie and bass in every issue of Texas Fish and Game. It is nice to be able to look at some of the lesser-known species that swim in our waterways.

Pike in Texas?

That is pretty cool.

—by Chester Moore

Study Recommends More Access to Outdoors

The Nature of Americans National Report: Disconnection and Recommendations for Reconnection reveals important insights from a study of nearly 12,000 adults, 8- to 12-year-old children and provides actionable recommendations to open the outdoors for all.

In Texas, researchers interviewed more than 200 children, surveyed more than 2,000 adults and conducted six focus groups in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, according to the report.

Here are some insights into the Texas data:

• 37 percent of Texas children have more fun playing outdoors than indoors.

• 49 percent of children in Texas have the same amount of fun indoors as outdoors.

• Three-quarters of Texas adults rate nature as one of their more enjoyable interests.

• Almost all children interviewed in Texas like being outdoors exploring woods and trees.

Get more information on the study online at

—by Will Leschper


—from TPWD

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