The American pickerels are two subspecies of Esox americanus, a species of freshwater fish in the pike family (family Esocidae) of order Esociformes: the redfin pickerel, E. americanus americanus Gmelin, 1789, and the grass pickerel, E. americanus vermiculatus Lesueur, 1846.
Both subspecies are native to North America. The redfin pickerel's range extends from the Saint Lawrence drainage in Québec down to the Gulf Coast, from Mississippi to Florida, while the grass pickerel's range is further west, extending from the Great Lakes basin from Ontario to Michigan down to the western Gulf Coast, from eastern Texas to Mississippi.
The two subspecies are very similar, but the grass pickerel lacks the redfin's distinctive orange to red fin coloration, its fins having dark leading edges and amber to dusky coloration. In addition, the light areas between the dark bands are generally wider than the bands on the body grass pickerel and narrower on the redfin pickerel. These pickerels grow to a maximum overall length of 40 cm (16 in) and a maximum weight of 1.0 kg (2.2 lb).
The redfin and grass pickerels occur primarily in sluggish, vegetated waters of pools, lakes, and swamps, and are carnivorous, feeding on smaller fish. Larger fishes, such as the striped sea-bass (Morone saxatilis), bowfin (Amia calva), and gray weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), in turn, prey on the pickerels when they venture into larger rivers or estuaries.
These fishes reproduce by scattering sperical, sticky eggs in shallow, heavily-vegetated waters. The eggs hatch in 11–15 days; the adults guard neither the eggs nor the young.
The E. americanus subspecies are not as highly prized as a gamefish as their larger cousins, the northern pike and muskellunge, but they are caught by anglers. (See How to catch a pickerel.)
Lesueur originally classified the grass pickerel as E. vermiculatus, but it is now considered a subspecies of E. americanus.
E. americanus americanus is sometimes called the brook pickerel. There is no widely-accepted English common collective name for the two E. americanus subspecies; "American pickerel" is a translation of the systematic name and the French brochet d'Amérique.
- "Esox americanus americanus (http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=2709)". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. October 2004 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2004.
- "Esox americanus vermiculatus (http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=2710)". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. October 2004 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2004.
- "Esox americanus" (TSN 162140) (http://www.itis.usda.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=162140). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. N.p.: Integrated Taxonomic Information System, 2004. Accessed on 5 December 2004.