You Can Catch Pike in Texas

Northern pike—whose Southern cousin, the pickerel, swims East Texas waters.

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 release.

Chain Pickerel

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 magazine without seeing a huge pike or musky.

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), chain pickerel 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 3-4 pounds and about 2 feet in length.”

Chain pickerel are 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.

Pike in Texas? Pretty cool, huh?

Chester Moore, Jr.

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