Break­ing down a myth

Sud­bury-area an­glers have been call­ing wall­eye a ‘pick­erel’ for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber

The Sudbury Star - - SPORTS - FRANK CLARK Frank Clark is a lo­cal guide and pro tour­na­ment an­gler. Frank’s Tackle Box col­umn ap­pears ev­ery other week in The Sud­bury Star. Clark can be reached at profish­ or on Face­book at Pro Fish­ing Frank Clark.

Here in the North and even parts of south­ern On­tario, an­glers have been call­ing wall­eye a “pick­erel” for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber.

In con­ver­sa­tions with an­glers, there has been countless times, I’ve been told that I sound Amer­i­can when I say “wall­eye” and that we don’t have any wall­eye here in the North, they’re pick­erel. Grow­ing up as a kid that is what I used to call them, too, but af­ter tak­ing fish and wildlife in col­lege, I started call­ing them by their true name, which is wall­eye.

By cu­rios­ity, I went on a Google search try­ing to find in­for­ma­tion that would sup­port how this great-tast­ing fish got mis­la­belled and I couldn’t find any­thing. It was likely passed down by gen­er­a­tions of an­glers and will for now re­main a mys­tery.

Now, I have my own the­ory, which is based on be­ing poked and cut many times by the long spiny dor­sal fin and ra­zor-sharp gill plate. I’m sure any­one who’s had to make up a home­made ban­dage con­sist­ing of pa­per towel and duct tape to stop the pro­fuse bleed­ing can re­late.

One thing to be aware of is that some restau­rants may take ad­van­tage of this and have “fresh pick­erel” as a spe­cial and not what most re­fer to as our lo­cal pick­erel, which may in fact be chain pick­erel. This is ex­tremely rare, but since it did hap­pen to me, I al­ways make it a point to ask.

I don’t be­lieve this ar­ti­cle will have any im­pact on what we here in the North call pick­erel and we’ll sud­denly see a change in lingo, but here are some facts about the two species.

Wall­eye (sci­en­tific name San­der Vitreus), AKA pick­erel, have a large, elon­gated body, back is olive-green to brown with lighter sides with yel­low flecks. The dor­sal fins are sep­a­rated by spiny and soft dor­sal and it has a dis­tinc­tive white area on the lower tip of the cau­dal fin. They also have large teeth that are ra­zor sharp, which helps when for­ag­ing on cisco, perch, small suck­ers and min­nows.

Let’s not for­get about their eyes, which have led to why we call them wall­eye. They have large eyes, which are lay­ered with a spe­cial pig­ment that at­tracts and re­flects even the slight­est amount of light, giv­ing them an ad­van­tage in low light con­di­tions when their prey is more ac­tive. This is why they do so well in murky or stained wa­ters of the North and will ac­tu­ally seek dark areas of cover dur­ing sunny con­di­tions to avoid the light.

Chain pick­erel (Esox Niger) is a mem­ber of the pike fam­ily. It has a dis­tinc­tive, dark, chain-like pat­tern on its green­ish sides and looks very sim­i­lar to north­ern pike. In fact, it looks so sim­i­lar an an­gler would have a hard time dis­tin­guish­ing it apart.

Chain pick­erel can be found in the south­east­ern por­tion of Canada along the coast in New Brunswick and Nova Sco­tia. An aver­age size chain pick­erel caught by an­glers is less than two pounds. Other nick­names are jack fish, jacks, eastern pick­erel and grass pike.

In the end, whether you call it pick­erel or wall­eye, bot­tom line is th­ese golden treats fil­leted up taste darn good no mat­ter how you la­bel them.

Good luck and tight lines!


A wall­eye, also known as a pick­erel.

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