The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Esox niger
Esox niger
(Chain Pickerel)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Esox niger Lesueur, 1818

Common name: Chain Pickerel

Synonyms and Other Names: southern pike, grass pike, jack, jack fish, eastern pickerel, gunny

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The chain pickerel is named for the dark chain-like patterns on its greenish sides, with a long, slim body somewhat resembling that of a northern pike. Further identification details can be found in Pflieger (1975); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Size: 99 cm

Native Range: Primarily the Atlantic slope from southwest Maine to southern Florida, but some populations exist above the Fall Line (Lee et al. 1980); Gulf Coast west to Sabine and Red drainages, Texas; Mississippi River basin north to Kentucky and Missouri (mostly Former Mississippi Embayment, but also upland streams in southeastern Missouri) (Page and Burr 1991). Hubbs et al. (1991) list as native to eastern Texas. For a detailed description of the distribution and range map, see Lee et al. (1980). Crossman (1978) also has a distribution map.

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Esox niger are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AR198819881Mountain Fork
CT199319944Housatonic; Outlet Connecticut River; Saugatuck; Thames
FL197419802Everglades; Lake Okeechobee
IA198019801Middle Cedar
KY198619861Middle Ohio-Laughery
ME1950201113East Branch Penobscot River; Lower Androscoggin River; Lower Kennebec River; Maine Coastal; New England Region; Passamaquoddy Bay-Bay of Fundy; Penobscot River; Piscataquis River; Presumpscot; Saint Croix River; St. George-Sheepscot; Upper Androscoggin River; West Branch Penobscot River
MD197620223Monocacy; Upper Chesapeake; Youghiogheny
MA1991199412Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Blackstone River; Cape Cod; Charles; Chicopee River; Concord River; Merrimack River; Millers River; Narragansett; Nashua River; New England Region; Quinebaug River
MI201520151Lake Huron
NE197419742Dismal; Lower South Platte
NH1992199410Ammonoosuc River-Connecticut River; Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Contoocook River; Merrimack River; Millers River; Nashua River; Pemigewasset River; Piscataqua-Salmon Falls; Saco River; Winnipesaukee River
NJ190519946Cohansey-Maurice; Great Egg Harbor; Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Delaware; Mid-Atlantic Region; Mullica-Toms
NY1930200912Chenango; Indian; Lake Champlain; Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Mohawk; Sacandaga; Saranac River; Upper Allegheny; Upper Delaware; Upper Hudson
NC199720121Upper French Broad
OH193519863Lower Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Muskingum; Tuscarawas
OK198019801Lake Texoma
PA197919862Lower Monongahela; Youghiogheny
RI199319931Pawcatuck River
TX198019801Lake Texoma
VT198019944Ammonoosuc River-Connecticut River; Passumpsic River; St. Francois River; Waits River-Connecticut River
VA194520014Kanawha; Upper Dan; Upper James; Upper New
WV198619932Little Muskingum-Middle Island; Upper Kanawha

Table last updated 6/20/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Ecology: Chain pickerel's preferred habitat includes vegetated lakes, swamps, and backwaters and quiet pools of creeks and small to medium rivers (Page and Burr 2011)This fish tolerates warm water, acidity to pH 3.8, and salinity to 22 ppt (Lee et al. 1980). It may enter brackish water in winter. Spawning occurs on flooded benches of streams, lakes, and ponds, where eggs sink and stick to the bottom or vegetation.

This species feeds primarily on smaller fish until it grows large enough to ambush larger prey from cover. Aggressive in their feeding habits, chain pickerel have been reported to eat a wide variety of bait, and are a popular sport fish that is an energetic fighter when hooked (Scott and Crossman 1973).

Means of Introduction: Intentional stocking in most areas; may have gained access to south Florida through artificial canals.

Status: Established in many areas. Reported from Kentucky.

Impact of Introduction: This species has been documented to naturally hybridize with E. lucius (Herke et al. 1990).

Remarks: A report of a single collection from the Ohio River, Kentucky, is unsubstantiated (B. Burr, personal communication).

References: (click for full references)

Anonymous. 1994.  Fish Stocking Report. Texas Parks & Wildlife News (February 25, 1994). 18 pp.

Boogaard, M.A., T.D. Bills, and D.A. Johnson. 2003. Acute toxicity of TFM and a TFM/niclosamide mixture to selected species of fish, including lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) and Mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus), in Laboratory and Field Exposures. Journal of Great Lakes Research 29(Supplement 1):529-541.

Brokaw, R.K. (updated by J. Lucas). 2008. Chain pickerel assessment. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Divisions of Fisheries and Planning. Available: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/species/management_plans/pickerel.pdf

Burr, B. - Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.

Burr, B.M., and L.M. Page. 1986. Zoogeography of fishes of the lower Ohio-upper Mississippi basin. Pages 287-324 in C.H. Hocutt, and E.O. Wiley, editors. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Clearwater, S.J., C.W. Hickey, and M.L. Martin. 2008. Overview of potential piscicides and molluscicides for controlling aquatic pest species in New Zealand. Science & Technical Publishing, New Zealand Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

Crossman, E.J. 1978. Taxonomy and distribution of North American esocids. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 11:13-26.

Cudmore-Vokey, B., and E.J. Crossman. 2000. Checklists of the fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes and their connecting channels. Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2500: v + 39 pp.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). 2006. Recovery strategy for the Atlantic whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, xiii + 42 pp.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). 2011. Recovery potential assessment for Lake Utopia rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) designatable units. DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Science Advisory Report 2011/004. 18 pp.

Ebner, M. - Soo Tribe Inter-tribal Fisheries and Assessment Program, Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Emery, L. 1985. Review of fish introduced into the Great Lakes, 1819-1974. Great Lakes Fishery Commission Technical Report, volume 45. 31 pp.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

GLMRIS. 2012. Appendix C: Inventory of Available Controls for Aquatic Nuisance Species of Concern, Chicago Area Waterway System. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Halliwell, D.B. 2003. Introduced Fish in Maine. MABP series: Focus on Freshwater Biodiversity. http://www.mainebiodiversity.org/introduced_fish.pdf

Hartel, K.E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1-9.

Hendricks, M.L., J.R. Stauffer, Jr., C.H. Hocutt, and C.R. Gilbert. 1979. A preliminary checklist of the fishes of the Youghiogheny River. Chicago Academy of Sciences, Natural History Miscellanea 203:1-15.

Herke, S.W., I. Kornfield, P. Moran, and J.R. Moring. 1990. Molecular confirmation of hybridization between northern pike (Esox lucius) and chain pickerel (Esox niger). Copeia 1990(3): 846-850.

Hocutt, C. H., R. E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. Pages 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt, and E.O. Wiley, editors. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Kushlan, J.A. and T.E. Lodge. 1974. Ecological and distributional notes on the freshwater fish of southern Florida. Biological Sciences 37(2):110-128.

Lee, D.S., A. Norden, C.R. Gilbert, and R. Franz. 1976. A list of the freshwater fishes of Maryland and Delaware. Chesapeake Science 17(3):205-211.

Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Marking, L.L. and T.D. Bills. 1985. Effects of contaminants on toxicity of the lampricides TFM and Bayer 73 to three species of fish. Journal of Great Lakes Research 11(2):171-178.

Morris, J., L. Morris, and L. Witt. 1974. The Fishes of Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, NE. 98 pp.

Morse, S.R. 1905. Fresh and salt water fish found in the waters of New Jersey, part I. Annual Report of the New Jersey State Museum. MacCrellish and Quigley, State Province, Trenton, NJ.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Pflieger, W.L. 1975. The Fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation. 343 pp.

Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, AR.

Scott, W.B., and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater Fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada Bulletin 184. 966 pp.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The Inland Fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. 522 pp.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., J.M. Boltz, and L.R. White. 1995. The Fishes of West Virginia. . Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA. 389 pp.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.

Webster, D.A. 1941. The life histories of some Connecticut fishes. Pages 122-227 in State Board of Fisheries and Game. A fishery survey of important Connecticut lakes. Connecticut Geological and Natural History Survey 63.

Whittier, T.R., D.B. Halliwell, and R.A. Daniels. 2000. Distributions of lake fishes in the Northeast - II. The Minnows (Cyprinidae). Northeastern Naturalist 7(2):131-156.

Whitworth, W.R., P.L. Berrien, and W.T. Keller. 1968. Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 101.

Other Resources:
Great Lakes Waterlife

FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., J. Larson, T.H. Makled, E. Lower, A. Fusaro & R. Sturtevant

Revision Date: 1/16/2024

Peer Review Date: 1/30/2015

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., J. Larson, T.H. Makled, E. Lower, A. Fusaro & R. Sturtevant, 2024, Esox niger Lesueur, 1818: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=681, Revision Date: 1/16/2024, Peer Review Date: 1/30/2015, Access Date: 6/20/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/20/2024].

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