AskDefine | Define pickerel

Dictionary Definition



1 flesh of young or small pike
2 any of several North American species of small pike

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A freshwater fish of the genus Esox.

Usage notes

  • The plural ending in "s" refers especially to multiple varieties (e.g when speaking of multiples species), whereas the other is preferred when speaking of multiple fish of the same kind.

See also

Extensive Definition

Esox (Linnaeus, 1758) is a genus of freshwater fish, a member of the pike family (family Esocidae) of order Esociformes such as the Muskellunge. The type species is E. lucius, the northern pike. The species of this genus are known as the pike.
The pike species are native to the Palearctic and Nearctic ecozones, ranging across northern North America and from Western Europe to Siberia in Eurasia. They have been found in many urban lakes in Western Europe, reported to be in the Rostrum (Lucerne) and the Serpentine, (London).
Pike can grow to a maximum recorded length of 1.83 metres (6 ft), reaching a maximum recorded weight of 35 kilograms (77 lb). The UK record pike was caught at Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales. Individuals have been reported to reach 30 years in age. They have the elongated, torpedo-like form of predatory fishes, with sharply-pointed heads and sharp teeth. Their coloration is typically grey-green with a mottled or spotted appearance with stripes along its back, perfectly camoflauged among weeds. The pike's marking is like a finger print, each with different patterns.


The generic name Esox derives from the Greek ίσοξ (a kind of fish), itself a word of Celtic origin related to the Welsh eog and Irish Gaelic iach (salmon). Pliny uses the Latin form esox in reference to a large fish in the Rhine normally identified with lax (salmon). It is likely that Carolus Linnaeus's application of Esox to the pikes is thus a misnomer.
The English common name "pike" is an apparent shortening of "pike-fish", in reference to its pointed head, Old English píc originally referring to a pickaxe.
A northern English and Lowland Scots name for the pike, ged, similarly derives from Old Norse gaddr (spike) (cf. the modern Swedish name for the pike, gädda, the danish "gedde" and Scottish Gaelic: geadais). The Finnish name hauki and Estonian haug derive from verb haukata, to bite, Polish - szczupak, French - brochet, German - hecht, Spanish - lucio, Italian - luccio.
The English "pike" originally referred specifically to the adult fish, the diminutive form "pickerel" (now used to name some of the smaller pikes, E. americanus and E. niger) referring to the young. The walleye (Sander vitreus) is sometimes called a pickerel, but it is unrelated to the pikes, being a member of the perch family (family Percidae). The pikes are not to be confused with the unrelated pikeminnows (traditionally, and perhaps better, known as squawfish) of genus Ptychocheilus (family Cyprinidae) or pikeperch (Sander lucioperca) which is more akin to walleye than to pike.
Two United States Navy submarines have been named Pike, SS-6 of 1903 and SS-173 of 1935, and three, SS-22 of 1912, SS-177 of 1936, and SS-524 of 1944, named Pickerel. In addition, the Soviet submarines known to NATO as the Victor III class were called the Shchuka (Щука, "pike") class, in Russian. The Soviet Iosif Stalin tank (IS-3) was also nicknamed Shchuka, in reference to its sharply pointed hull front.


The pike feeds on a wide range of food sources. Their primary prey is other fish, including their own kind. In Europe, their main prey is roach whenever available; they also prey on eels, walleye, whitefish, minnows, dace, perch, gudgeon, sunfish and any other fish that takes their fancy. They devour fish up to one-third of their own size. Pike are cannibalistic; some 20% of their diet consists of pikes smaller than themselves. Pike have little respect for relative size and as a result have been known to bite swimmers and divers.
They will also prey on insects and amphibians such as newts or frogs in times when food is scarce, and occasionally on small mammals, like moles or mice when caught water-borne. Small birds such as ducklings may become a target for hungry pike. Pikes are also known to prey on swimming snakes, such as vipers. Big pikes have been known to swallow adult wild ducks whole.
The pikes are notoriously voracious carnivores and can be potential pests when introduced into alien ecosystems.


Pike angling as a key part of general coarse fishing is becoming an increasingly popular pastime in the UK and Europe. Effective methods for catching this hard-fighting fish include dead baits, lure fishing, and jerk baiting. Pike can easily be damaged when handled. Since they have very sharp teeth and the teeth are numerous, it is wise to take extreme care when unhooking the pike.
The Pike Anglers Club was formed in 1977 to campaign for the preservation of the pike and the sport of pike fishing.
Pike are also prized as game fish for their determined fighting and have been food fish since ancient times.

In mythology

In the Finnish Kalevala, Väinämöinen creates a kantele (string instrument) from the jawbone of the pike.
Russian mythology holds that the pike is one of several forms assumed by evil water spirits called vodyanoy, and a ravenous mythical pike is traditionally blamed for decimating the fish population in the Sheksna River.


pickerel in Bulgarian: Щуки
pickerel in Czech: Štika
pickerel in Danish: Gedde-familien
pickerel in German: Hechte
pickerel in French: Esox
pickerel in Ido: Lucio
pickerel in Italian: Esocidae
pickerel in Hungarian: Csukafélék
pickerel in Dutch: Snoeken
pickerel in Norwegian: Gjedder
pickerel in Polish: Szczupakowate
pickerel in Portuguese: Lúcio (peixe)
pickerel in Russian: Щука
pickerel in Slovenian: Ščuke
pickerel in Swedish: Gäddor
pickerel in Turkish: Turna balığı
pickerel in Ukrainian: Щуки
pickerel in Lithuanian: Lydekos
pickerel in Chinese: 狗鱼
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