Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference?  - Tastylicious (2022)

Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference? - Tastylicious (1)

Pike and pickerel are two common freshwater fish that often get confused with each other due to their similar appearances. That happens a lot as both belong to the pike family and have similar elongated bodies and snouts. However, there are ways to tell these fishes apart.

The main difference between pike and pickerel is their varying size and taste. The pike usually is larger than the pickerel. Pike may have a slightly fishy taste that is absent in pickerel, which is more on the sweeter side.

Pike and pickerel also differ in their variations, shapes, and nutrition - all of which you can find out in this article.

Table of Contents
  • What is Pike?
  • What is Pickerel?
  • Pike vs. Pickerel - Quick Comparison Table
  • Differences Between Pike And Pickerel
  • Which One to Use - Pike or Pickerel?
  • Final Thoughts

What is Pike?

Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference? - Tastylicious (2)

The northern pike, or pike as it is popularly known, is a variation of fish found in the fresh waters of countries like Britain, Ireland, Canada, and most parts of the United States and Europe. The pike gets its name from its shape, similar to a North American pole weapon of the same name.

They are carnivorous by nature and thrive in any body of water with many fish species. Their common prey includes insects, leeches, and crayfish. Interestingly, due to their enormous growth size (46-55 cm on average), they have occasionally been spotted hunting waterbirds.

This freshwater apex predator is sold commercially and has also been fished for sport. They are very territorial creatures and hence are solitary by nature. An interesting fact about pikes is that some of them have very flexible eyeballs that can see in any direction.

What Are The Best Substitutes For Pike?

Pike has a mild and very subtle fishy flavor. If you cannot find any pike around and want to gain its unique taste, you can use any firm white fish as a substitute. For example, perch, canned salmon, trout, and tilapia are great pike replacements.

What is Pickerel?

Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference? - Tastylicious (3)

Many confuse pickerel as the name of a species of fish, but the name is a common term used for three different kinds of fish of the pike family. The term ‘pickerel’ can refer to the American pickerel, Chain pickerel, Redfin pickerel, and sometimes even the Walleye fish.

Pickerels are freshwater fish that look very similar to the northern pike with their long snouts. They are usually found in shallow water bodies like weed edges, lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. These fishes are mainly distributed across North America and are a popular catch there.

Like their cousins, pickerels feed on smaller fish as well, and chain pickerels are also known to feed on frogs, snakes, and other varieties of food. They are often used as game fish due to their wide availability.

What Are The Best Substitutes For Pickerel?

Pickerels have a sweet and mild flavor which is not very fishy to taste. Hence, a good substitute for it is any medium, thick, firm-fleshed freshwater white fish. For example, cod, sole, and hake make great substitutes for pickerel.

Pike vs. Pickerel - Quick Comparison Table

PikePickerel
TasteLight and mild with no strong fishy flavorLighter than pike, with a mild taste blended with sweetness
AppearanceHuge, green-brown fishes with large, round, spotted finsAlso large, but smaller than pike while having yellow-green color and small fins
HabitatDistributed across Alaska, Canada, and mid-western US states.Distributed through Eastern Canada, Florida, and Texas
PriceSlightly on the costlier sideLess expensive than pike

Differences Between Pike And Pickerel

Let’s take a look at the main differences between pike and pickerel fish in detail.

1. Taste

When it comes to flavor, both pike and pickerel are known to taste similar but with very few differences.

Pike tastes mild with no strong fishy flavor. It also has a light texture and can become earthier when cooked with other herbs and spices. A lot of people even believe that it tastes a lot like chicken.

On the other hand, pickerel also has a mild taste but is sweeter. It also lacks the fishy taste that pike does and tastes excellent baked or pan-fried. Moreover, it is also bonier than pike.

2. Appearance

Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference? - Tastylicious (4)

Because they belong to the same family, telling the two fish apart based on their looks becomes challenging. However, they have many differences in shape and size by which you can tell them apart. Northern pike can grow up to 50 inches long, while pickerel can only grow up to 25 inches.

The two also have slightly varied body patterns - pickerel are slightly light green to yellow, but northern pike is a darker green. The area where the flanks of the pike are has light spots and bars, but pickerels have a chain-like, dark-colored pattern along the length of their bodies.

The most significant difference in their looks is probably on their fins. While pikes have large, round fins that are reddish-brown and are covered with dark spots, pickerels have small fins that are more on the orange-brown side.

Pike also have gills that lack scales, while pickerels have gills that are completely covered by scales.

3. Nutrients

Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference? - Tastylicious (5)

Both pike and pickerel are low-calorie fishes with very less fat content and many necessary nutrients like protein, vitamins B12, selenium, and omega fatty acids like EPA and DHA. They are also rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium that help regulate blood pressure and nerve function.

They are great to include in diets that require low fats and high protein. Following are two nutrition tables to help you understand the components of these two fish.

Nutrition Information of Pike and Pickerel:

NutrientPikePickerel
Protein38.1 g21 g
Cholesterol77.2 mg42.5 mg
Sodium77.2 mg84.1 mg
Total Fat1.4 g0.8 g
Saturated Fat0.2 g0.1 gms
Omega 3 Acid0.2 g0.2 gms
Calories174.2 g96 g

Note that pike has more calories, proteins, and fat than pickerel, whereas pickerel is higher in sodium.

4. Price

There is not much difference between the pike and pickerel's retail prices. But as a game fish, northern pike is much more preferred than a pickerel. So, it is slightly pricier, too.

5. Location

Being predatory fish, you can find both pike and pickerel in slow waters where other small fishes may gather. So, water bodies like weedy pools, streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes that offer aquatic vegetation are hotspots for pickerel and pike.

Even though both are North American fish, the northern pike is present across Alaska through Canada and down the upper, mid-western US states. On the contrary, you’ll find pickerels in the Southern parts of Eastern Canada, down to Florida, and then west to Texas.

Which One to Use - Pike or Pickerel?

After analyzing all comparisons and similarities between the two fish, it can be safely said that whether to use pike or pickerel solely depends on the availability in the market.

Both are common freshwater fish that have no restrictions on their commercialization. So, they are always readily available.

The taste of both the fish also depends on the type of freshwater they come from. So, there is no specific preference for the better choice. The fishy taste is not strong on both the meats, but if you prefer a slight hint of sweetness, you can go for pickerel.

When it comes to portions, and you want to have a larger fill, then pike as a bigger fish is a better option.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of eating fish are many - from increased cognitive abilities to light, beneficial protein. Pike and pickerel are both readily available fish that can provide this nutrition.

I hope that this article helped you a lot in understanding the differences between these two common fish!

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  2. Pike vs Muskie
  3. 10 Best Fish Sauce Substitutes
  4. Steelhead Trout Vs. Salmon: Differences and Similarities
  5. What Does Walleye Taste Like? Must Know Facts
  6. Walleye Vs. Bass: What Is The Difference?

FAQs

Pike vs. Pickerel: What Is The Difference?  - Tastylicious? ›

The main difference between pike and pickerel is their varying size and taste. The pike usually is larger than the pickerel. Pike may have a slightly fishy taste that is absent in pickerel, which is more on the sweeter side.

How can you tell the difference between pike and pickerel? ›

Both Pike and Pickerel are freshwater fishes. The Pike is larger in size than the Pickerel. The Pickerel has more spots than the Pike, but the Pike has spots on its fins. The jawline of the Pike goes back more towards its eyes than the Pickerel.

How do you identify pickerel? ›

Distinguishing Markings:

Chain pickerel have a conspicuous dark bar beneath each eye and the pupil of the eye is yellow. The snout is long, broad, and rounded with a large mouth and a sharp set of teeth. The lower jaw extends further forward than the upper jaw and is equipped with four sensory pores on the underside.

Is a pickerel the same as a Northern Pike? ›

What is Pickerel? Pickerels (Esox americanus) are small freshwater fish that belong to the pike family. Like walleyes, pickerels are also found in Canada and the Northern United States. As with the walleye, pickerels can be found in the Great Lakes.

What do Canadians call a pickerel? ›

Walleye are often called pickerel, especially in English speaking parts of Canada, while in the United States of America, they call the same species (Sander vitreus) a walleye.

Do pike and pickerel taste the same? ›

However, there are ways to tell these fishes apart. The main difference between pike and pickerel is their varying size and taste. The pike usually is larger than the pickerel. Pike may have a slightly fishy taste that is absent in pickerel, which is more on the sweeter side.

Can u eat pickerel? ›

Pickerel have tasty, sweet meat, but few people get past the first mouthful before they give up in disgust at the bones riddling the flesh. You can try scouring them with cross-cuts and frying in hot oil, which is supposed to make the bones "chewable." But even chewable bones are anathema to some.

What tastes better walleye or pickerel? ›

Walleyes significantly taste better than pickerels. 5. Walleyes are found in deeper waters, while pickerels thrive in shallower waters.

Is pickerel related to pike? ›

What Is the Difference Between Pike and Pickerel? While northern pike (Esox lucius) and chain pickerel (Esox niger) are actually two separate species, they are nonetheless fairly closely related to one another, as they belong to both the wider pike family Esocidae and the same genus type Esox.

What is the best bait for pickerel fishing? ›

Spinnerbaits, spinners and weedless fishing spoons with pork or plastic dressings are also good. Though the fish tend to chew them up a bit, soft plastic jerkbaits are excellent for fooling pickerel. A moderate to fast retrieve is most effective, but at times it pays to slow down.

Does pike taste like walleye? ›

I have some good buddies that swear up and down that pike tastes just as good as walleye. For me it's somewhat close, but i enjoy walleye a more with a definite edge.

Are walleye a pike? ›

The walleye (Sander vitreus, synonym Stizostedion vitreum), also called the yellow pike or yellow pickerel, is a freshwater perciform fish native to most of Canada and to the Northern United States. It is a North American close relative of the European zander, also known as the pikeperch.

Why is it called a walleye? ›

The torpedo-shaped fish ranges from dark olive brown to yellowish gold, its sides often marked with brassy flecks. The walleye is named for its pearlescent eye, which is caused by the tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer of pigment that helps the fish to see and feed at night or in turbid water.

Why do Americans call pickerel walleye? ›

We recognize that since fishing is passed down from generation to generation, whatever name, walleye or pickerel, the person who taught you to fish will use the common name when referring to the species. However, we utilize the common name walleye to avoid confusion within the pickerel species.

Are walleye good to eat? ›

Walleye offers a fine-flaked fillet with a subtle, sweet flavor and low levels of fishiness. A good fish if you enjoy eating a meal consisting of mild flavors. Its texture is firm yet delicate with a buttery mouthfeel. If you prefer less fishy, blander tasting fish then you'll probably enjoy it.

What does pickerel taste like? ›

The flavour is sweet and mild and is great for people who are looking for a fish without that “fishy taste” Pickerel is wonderful pan-fried or deep-fried with a crispy breading or batter. Pickerel is also nice baked and is also firm enough to BBQ.

How can you tell the difference between a pike and a muskie? ›

The easiest way to distinguish Muskie and Pike is by looking at the tail. Both species have forked tails, but Muskie have much more pointed forks, while Pike tails are more rounded. Tiger Musky also have rounded tails, helping you tell them apart from regular Musky.

What fish looks like a pike? ›

The chain pickerel has a distinctive, dark, chain-like pattern on its greenish sides. Its body outline resembles that of the northern pike. It may reach up to 30 in long only on rare occasions. The opercles and cheeks of the fish are entirely scaled.

Is pickerel related to pike? ›

What Is the Difference Between Pike and Pickerel? While northern pike (Esox lucius) and chain pickerel (Esox niger) are actually two separate species, they are nonetheless fairly closely related to one another, as they belong to both the wider pike family Esocidae and the same genus type Esox.

Are pike good to eat? ›

So, is pike good to eat? Yes, its actually tasty and there are many recipes for pike.

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