Difference Between Pike and Pickerel

Pike vs Pickerel

Pike, pickerel, and muskellunges collectively make seven species under one genus, Esox, which is a genus of freshwater fish. Esox is the only extant genus of the Family: Esocidae. Being members of the same genus, both pike and pickerel share many features in common, yet there are some exhibited differences between them. This article intends to summarize the interesting features of both pike (3 species) and pickerels (2 species) and to discuss the difference between them.


Usually, all the Esox species are known as pike fishes, but there are three species with the name pike is used to refer known as Northen pike (E. lucius), Southern pike (E. flaviae), and Amur pike (E. reichertii). The Northern pike is the type species used in describing the pike by Linnaeus in 1758. The olive green coloured Northern pike (with light spots throughout the body) lives in the freshwaters and brackish waters of the Holarctic region (Russia, Europe, and North America). Northern pike can usually grow about 70 – 120 centimetres long, and the weight of an average adult is about 25 kilograms. However, there is a record from Germany about a Northern pike weighing 31 kilograms with a length of 147 centimetres. However, the longest Northern pike ever recorded measures 152 centimetres.

Southern pike is also very similar to Northern pike, and they both were considered as a single species until 2011. Southern pike is natively found in the Southern European countries. Their body sizes and ecological niches are similar as the Northern pike, but the number of scales on the lateral line and few other features are slightly different from each other. Amur pike is so named as it is native to the Amur River in East Asia. Amur pike has also been distributed in the freshwaters of Sakhalin. Despite the fact that they are not naturally found anywhere except Amur River and Sakhalin, an introduction to Glendale Lake in Pennsylvania has taken place in 1968. Amur pike can grow up to 115 centimetres and come in a silvery body with few small black colour spots.


Pickerel is the name used to refer two species, which are known as the American pickerel (E. americanus) and Chain pickerel (E. niger). There are two subspecies described under E.americanus known as Redfin pickerel (E. americanus americanus) and Grass pickerel (E. americanus vermiculatus). The whole species of American pickerel is naturally distributed in North America. Except for few features such as orange to red colour fins with leading edges, body colouration ranging from amber to dusky present in Redfin pickerel, both subspecies are mostly similar. Additionally, the distance between two dark bands is slightly higher in Grass pickerel than in Redfin pickerel. The maximum length of an American pickerel is 40 centimetres while they do not weigh over 2.25 pounds. They prefer slow moving freshwaters with rich aquatic vegetation and feed on other small fishes.

Chain pickerel has a wide range of food preference such as small fishes, frogs, crabs, mice, crayfish, and many other aquatic animals. Chain pickerel is larger than American pickerel with an average bodyweight of about three pounds and a length of about 54 centimetres. There is a characteristic chain-like colouration pattern on the greenish sides. Overall, the pickerel species seem to be small versions of the pike fishes.

What is the difference between Pike and Pickerel?

• Pike is the mainly referred name while pickerel is used to refer certain species of Esox.

• There are three pike species while pickerels are composed of two species.

• Pike have a wider distribution in global scale than pickerels.

• Pike are top predators of the ecosystem while pickerels stay down one or two steps.

• Pike feed on other fish species while some pickerels can feed on many small aquatic animals.

• Pike are much larger than pickerels in their body sizes.


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3. Difference Between Crayfish and Crawfish

4. Difference Between Cartilaginous Fish and Bony Fish

5. Difference Between Bullhead and Catfish

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