Pickerel Lake Park - Fred Meijer Nature Preserve
Image by rkramer62 via Flickr

During the 1960s I was a kid growing up in central Ontario, Canada. I did a lot of fishing in the river that ran through the back of our farm. The only thing I ever caught there was catfish although there were some big pike in the river, I just didn’t have the gear for them.

I remember my older brother Chuck catching a huge walleye on one of his fishing trips. I was always to young to go on those trips as there was a lot of drinking. Anyways he didn’t call the walleye a walleye, ever. He always called it a pickerel.

I was actually 30 years old and living in New Brunswick Canada before I saw my first Chain pickerel and realized they weren’t the same species.

Chain pickerel are also known as “federation pickerel” and in SE U.S. they are nicknamed “jack fish”.

Caught My First Chain Pickerel on The Fly

It’s kind of cool the way I found out about pickerel here in New Brunswick as I mostly fished brook trout. I consider myself blessed to have caught my first real pickerel on the fly rod while fly fishing for trout so it was a happy accident.

Fishing A Flooded Forest on The Fly Rod

It feels like a lifetime ago I had been invited to go fishing with a fly fishing buddy. Wayne wanted to take me to a little spot he wants to keep secret. He told me we would be able to catch some big brook trout on the fly.

Once we arrived I could not believe he expected me to actually use a fly rod in there. It was a forest that had been flooded years earlier when busy beavers had blocked the flow of water and flooded a large patch of timber.

Wayne told me there was 16″ brookies within. I didn’t call him a liar however I’d been thinking it. I did become a believer after he landed the first 16″ brook trout.

Fly fishing through trees was really a brand new experience. I had fished ponds and brooks for trout using the fly rod, had even learned to deal with trees behind me just not a forest all around me.

I spent most of my time staying out of the trees but did get a few trout. As usual when it comes time to leave I usually need to get a couple more casts. Just as I pulled the fly from the water for that final cast a pencil like 10″ fish flew from the water and grabbed that fly.

I couldn’t imagine just how intense this tiny fish was. That was when I learned the difference between a walleye and a pickerel.

These days I fish Chain pickerel every chance I can. My record continues to grow from that first 10″ chain pickerel to 25″.

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