I've never thought much of the fish in the spring pond serving as host of our annual family reunion and camping trip. Since childhood it has been an ice cold swimming hole with beautifully blue water and a peculiar looking diving board.
Between all the swim sessions, I've usually enjoyed some halfhearted fishing and I've always been told the "pike" in our fishing hole were actually grass pickerel. I never thought much about them other than to note their diminutive size but last year I happened across an article that peaked my interest. It seems grass pickerel don't get big and the 12 inchers we've caught are considered wall hangers.
The pond offers a variety of species, a variety that changes from year to year. In the past we've dented the populations of blue gill, bullhead, bass, "pike" and others. This year the predominate species was green sunfish, but I also saw a bluegill and some other sort of sunfish (I think a long ear). Where all these fish come from is one of those natural mysteries we'll never fully understand, but with this trip I've solved one of the biggest.
After getting all excited about the prospect of catching a trophy grass pike, the very first fish I caught was the specimen shown above. It came on a 1/16 oz white rooster tail (you might call it a Mepp's spinner). This spinner has been a crappie killer and was chosen on this day specifically for pickerel. I knew pike like to eat my bass spinners, so small pike would enjoy small spinners...right? Lacking a definitive authority on fish identification, I was left with the faint memory of research performed before dropping off the grid. I knew it was a pickerel (not a pike) because of the beautiful tear drop marking, but what sort of pickerel would have to wait for my return to civilization.
While catching this fish was a major moment in my fishing storyboard, I'm sorry to report it is no trophy. I'm now quite sure the pikes present are chain pickerels. Even if you forget the fact any internet research is to be questioned, the examples readily available all point to chain pickerel. The only question I can't answer is if this is a hybrid. It does seem to have the chain markings overlaying a grass pike color pattern.
Given the variety of fish we catch, it is possible both chains and grass pickerels inhabit the clear blue water. Right now it doesn't matter, I set out to prove a point and said point is proven. The fact I went down there to catch a pickerel and succeeded is all the satisfaction I need.
Next year I'll try again. In the mean time, if your wondering where to catch chain pickerel, drive to Missouri and turn right on the road that looks like this.
If you make it that far, you're a mere 20 minutes from the best swimming hole around.