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Pike vs. Pickerel — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 30, 2023
Pike and pickerel are both freshwater fish, but pikes are generally larger and less common than the smaller pickerel.
Pike vs. Pickerel

Difference Between Pike and Pickerel

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Key Differences

Pike are predatory freshwater fish known for their elongated bodies and sharp teeth. Pickerel are similar in shape but are generally smaller and often mistaken for juvenile pike due to their appearance. Pike can grow to significantly larger sizes compared to pickerel.
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Oct 30, 2023
In fishing terms, pike is considered a prize catch due to its size and fighting spirit. Pickerel, while still providing a challenge, is often targeted for its speed and agility. Anglers distinguish them by size and the pattern of markings on their bodies.
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The pike is a solitary hunter, often found in deeper waters with less vegetation. Pickerel prefer shallower, weedier waters and tend to be more group-oriented. This behavior affects their feeding habits, with pike taking larger prey and pickerel feeding on smaller fish.
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Pike is widely known across the Northern Hemisphere and is revered in many fishing communities. The pickerel, though less famous, is a common catch in North America, with several species like the chain pickerel and the redfin pickerel.
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While both pike and pickerel belong to the Esox genus, their environmental preferences lead to different geographical distributions. Pike are more common in the lakes and rivers of Europe and northern Asia, while pickerel are typically found in North America.
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Comparison Chart

Size

Larger, up to several feet.
Smaller, rarely over 2-3 feet.
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Body Markings

Fewer, lighter markings.
Often have chain-like patterns.
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Geographic Distribution

Widespread in Europe and northern Asia.
Primarily found in North America.
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Habitat Preference

Deep, clear waters with less vegetation.
Shallow, vegetated waters.
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Fishing Popularity

Considered a trophy fish.
Valued for sport, less for size.
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Compare with Definitions

Pike

A long-bodied freshwater predatory fish with sharp teeth.
The northern pike is one of the most sought-after game fish in North America.
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Pickerel

A term used in some regions to refer to any small pike.
They thought it was a young pike, but it was actually a pickerel.
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Pike

A weapon with a long shaft and a pointed steel head.
The soldiers were armed with pikes to defend the pass.
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Pickerel

A small North American freshwater fish of the pike family.
He caught a chain pickerel while fishing in the river.
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Pike

A peak or pointed mountain, often part of a name.
They planned to hike up Pike's Peak early in the morning.
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Pickerel

The young of larger pike, often resembling adult pickerel in size.
The pond was stocked with pickerel, which would grow into full-sized pike.
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Pike

A physical exercise involving a specific position to stretch the legs and back.
She finished her yoga routine with a perfect pike position.
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Pickerel

A colloquial term for the grass pickerel, a subspecies found in weedy, shallow waters.
The grass pickerel are abundant in this marsh.
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Pike

A long spear formerly used by infantry.
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Pickerel

A name for certain subspecies of pike, including the chain pickerel and redfin pickerel.
The redfin pickerel has a distinctive reddish hue on its fins.
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Pike

A freshwater game and food fish (Esox lucius) of the Northern Hemisphere that has a long snout and attains a length of over 1.2 meters (4 feet). Also called northern pike.
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Pickerel

Any of several North American freshwater game fishes of the genus Esox, especially the chain pickerel.
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Pike

Any of various fishes closely related to this fish, such as the muskellunge or the pickerels.
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Pickerel

The walleye.
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Pike

Any of various fishes that resemble this fish.
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Pickerel

Chiefly British A young pike.
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Pike

A turnpike.
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Pickerel

A freshwater fish of the genus Esox.
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Pike

A tollgate on a turnpike.
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Pickerel

(Canada) Walleye, A species of gamefish, Sander vitreus, native to the Northern U.S. and Canada with pale, reflective eyes.
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Pike

A toll paid.
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Pickerel

A wading bird, the dunlin.
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Pike

A hill with a pointed summit.
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Pickerel

A young or small pike.
Bet [better] is, quoth he, a pike than a pickerel.
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Pike

A spike or sharp point, as on the tip of a spear.
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Pickerel

Any one of several species of freshwater fishes of the genus Esox, esp. the smaller species.
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Pike

A mid-air position in sports such as diving and gymnastics in which the athlete bends to touch the feet or grab the calves or back of the thighs while keeping the legs together and straight.
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Pickerel

Flesh of young or small pike
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Pike

To attack or pierce with a pike.
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Pickerel

Any of several North American species of small pike
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Pike

To move quickly.
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Pike

A very long spear used two-handed by infantry soldiers for thrusting (not throwing), both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a countermeasure against cavalry assaults.
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Pike

A sharp, pointed staff or implement.
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Pike

A large dry]] before adding to a haystack.
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Pike

Any carnivorous freshwater fish of the genus Esox, especially the northern pike, Esox lucius.
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Pike

A position with the knees straight and a tight bend at the hips with the torso folded over the legs, usually part of a jack-knife.
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Pike

A pointy extrusion at the toe of a shoe.
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Pike

Especially in place names: a hill or mountain, particularly one with a sharp peak or summit.
Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England.
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Pike

(obsolete) A pick, a pickaxe.
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Pike

A hayfork.
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Pike

A penis.
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Pike

(historical) A style of shoes with long toes, very popular in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries.
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Pike

A gypsy, itinerant tramp, or traveller from any ethnic background; a pikey.
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Pike

(transitive) To prod, attack, or injure someone with a pike.
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Pike

To assume a pike position.
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Pike

To bet or gamble with only small amounts of money.
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Pike

Often followed by on or out: to quit or back out of a promise.
Don’t pike on me like you did last time!
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Pike

(intransitive) To equip with a turnpike.
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Pike

To depart or travel (as if by a turnpike), especially to flee, to run away.
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Pike

A foot soldier's weapon, consisting of a long wooden shaft or staff, with a pointed steel head. It is now superseded by the bayonet.
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Pike

A pointed head or spike; esp., one in the center of a shield or target.
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Pike

A hayfork.
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Pike

A pick.
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Pike

A pointed or peaked hill.
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Pike

A large haycock.
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Pike

A turnpike; a toll bar.
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Pike

A large fresh-water fish (Esox lucius), found in Europe and America, highly valued as a food fish; - called also pickerel, gedd, luce, and jack.
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Pike

A broad highway designed for high-speed traffic
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Pike

Highly valued northern freshwater fish with lean flesh
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Pike

A sharp point (as on the end of a spear)
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Pike

Medieval weapon consisting of a spearhead attached to a long pole or pikestaff; superseded by the bayonet
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Pike

Any of several elongate long-snouted freshwater game and food fishes widely distributed in cooler parts of the northern hemisphere
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Pike

A toll road or turnpike.
We took the pike to avoid the traffic on the backroads.
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Common Curiosities

Are both pike and pickerel members of the Esox genus?

Yes, both fish are part of the Esox genus, which includes all pikes and pickerels.
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What distinguishes a pike from a pickerel?

Pike are generally larger and can be distinguished by their size and lighter body markings compared to the often chain-patterned pickerel.
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Can pike and pickerel be found in the same geographical areas?

Pike have a broader distribution across the Northern Hemisphere, whereas pickerel are more common in North America.
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Is it easy to confuse a young pike with a pickerel?

Yes, young pike and pickerel can look similar, but can be differentiated by body markings and growth potential.
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How can anglers target pike versus pickerel?

Anglers target pike with larger lures in deeper water, while pickerel can be caught with smaller lures in weedy areas.
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Are pike and pickerel found in the same habitats?

Pike prefer deeper waters, while pickerel are more common in shallower, vegetated waters.
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What type of fishing techniques are best for pike?

Pike fishing often involves trolling or casting with large spoons, plugs, or live bait.
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Do pike and pickerel have the same diet?

Their diets are similar, but pike can tackle larger prey due to their size.
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What is a chain pickerel?

The chain pickerel is a species of pickerel known for its distinctive chain-like patterns along its body.
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Can pickerel be kept as game fish?

Yes, pickerel are commonly kept by anglers for sport due to their speed and agility.
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Which grows larger, pike or pickerel?

Pike can grow much larger than pickerel, with some species reaching several feet in length.
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Are pickerel as aggressive as pike?

Pickerel can be aggressive, but they generally target smaller prey than pike due to their size.
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Why are pike considered trophy fish?

Pike are sought after by anglers for their size, fight, and the challenge they pose.
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Is the term "pickerel" used differently in various regions?

Yes, "pickerel" can refer to different subspecies or even young pike in some regions.
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Are pickerel good to eat?

Pickerel can be eaten and are known for their fine, sweet flesh, although they are not as sought after as pike for culinary purposes.
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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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