Grass pickerel aren’t mentioned often by anglers and there’s a pretty obvious reason for this. The smaller of the two “American Pickerel,” the grass pickerel is the runt of the pike family and the smallest member by quite a bit.
Adult grass pickerel rarely get longer than 11.8 to 12.0 inches in length, and will rarely weigh more than 10 ounces. Even the world record grass pickerel was barely over 13 inches and weighed exactly one pound (16 oz).
Anglers don’t go after grass pickerel because they are simply too small, with even really the largest adults not providing enough meat to be worth a fillet.
These are not to be mistaken with the much larger chain pickerel which, although small compared to big pike or muskie, hold their own in the 5-9 lb range as adults.
Could Grass Pickerel Get Bigger?
Considering the world record is a measly one pound, and most states that actually record state records that are in ounces (if they pay attention at all), the answer is no.
These fish thrived as small fry in the weeds that were just big enough to eat smaller fish as adults and that’s what they do.
For another good look, take a look at this comparison table of a grass pickerel at three different ages, and notice how small they are.
This picture comes from a fantastic report on the grass pickerel that was released to the public by the COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report.
Are Grass Pickerel and Red Pickerel the Same?
No. This is actually a common mistake. So common, in fact, that some state DNR sites seem to use the two terms interchangeably.
Both the grass pickerel and the red pickerel are often grouped together as “American Pickerel.” Since neither is considered a game fish this muddling isn’t as big a deal as it would be with other fish.
These are closely related cousins, but the grass pickerel doesn’t have the distinctive redfins that give the redfin pickerel it’s name. That sub-species (redfin) also grows slightly larger than grass pickerel do.
Does Anyone Fish for Grass Pickerel?
Nope. For obvious reasons of size.
Any fish that is referred to by a condescendingly cute name like Munchkin isn’t one likely to inspire a lot of attention from serious sports anglers.
These are just interesting oddities when you manage to get one on the line. And they undeniably look funky when you reel in this small barely above a big minnow fish that has a maw of sharp teeth.
Fun story, interesting oddity, but also a throw back. Chances are state records have been thrown back without a second thought.
What Does Grass Pickerel Eat?
They do eat larvae and small bugs as fry and as they get to adult size they eat minnows and even smaller fish.
They have a voracious appetite for their size, but it’s hard to be impressed by that considering they’re from the same family of fish that give us the northern pike, musky, and tiger musky.
So What Are Grass Pickerel Good For?
To the angler, not too much. Although as much as some people are still trying to make a northern pike an aquarium fish, choosing the small toothy minnow-like grass pickerel often makes much more sense. Assuming your other fish are big enough not to get eaten.
Otherwise they’re worth an odd story down at your favorite bait shop or fisherman’s bar.
Beyond that, stick with the other members of the pike family. They’re actually worth the fight and the effort.
Other Pickerel Articles on this Blog