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Thread: Pickerel handling suggestions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default Pickerel handling suggestions

    Many Snaggedline members have enjoyed fishing for pickerel in the local tidal rivers (Severn, Magothy, South) during cold weather months. The pickerel have provided some fun and good pullage when the other local near shore species were absent. The pickerel bite was reasonably predictable each winter until November 2016. At that point, pickerel became very scarce. As an example of the obvious decline, here are my pickerel catch totals for Nov and Dec over the past few years (all from the Severn tributaries).

    Year Nov Dec Total
    2013 13 48 61
    2014 42 58 100
    2015 50 81 131
    2016 a few 0 a few

    I have not started targeting pickerel this fall, but for the first time in a decade, I did not catch any pickerel during the summer months while perch fishing in Severn tributaries. I have heard from others fishing in different parts of the Severn and from the other two rivers that they noticed a significant decline too.

    With this unknown population decline as a backdrop, I would like to offer several suggestions if you do catch a pickerel. Hopefully these ideas can protect the remaining pickerel in our waters and allow them to reproduce next year.

    1) Unless you are desperate for some fish to eat, put it back. Practice careful catch and release.

    2) If this is your first pickerel or is larger than others you have caught, or if you think it may be a citation size (24"), feel free to take a photo. If not, consider releasing the pickerel quickly without taking time to lay it out on a measuring board and taking a photo. That flopping around and handling cannot be good for the fish.

    3) For most pickerel that I have caught, the hook is through the jaw but is not inside the mouth. If you grab the fish around the body behind the gills (not in the gills) -- like grabbing the barrel of a baseball bat -- you can control the fish long enough to slide the hook out with your fingers or pliers.

    4) If you fish live minnows, keep the minnow moving like a lure. Fishing a live minnow under a bobber allows the fish to get the minnow into its mouth and throat and requires a much more invasive release procedure.

    5) Consider getting a simple jaw spreader tool.
    John Veil
    Native Watercraft Manta Ray 11 and Slayer Propel 10
    Member - Pro Staff team for Native Watercraft

    Author - "Fishing in the Comfort Zone" - light tackle fishing techniques for kayaks and small boats

  2. #2


    Great Post John,

    appreciate the chart as well. This really gives us a good look of the decline.

    Perception Striker

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015


    For me the easiest & best thing to do is hold the top of the head / skull so their body isnít squeezed

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012


    John those are amazing #s and pretty much fall in line with my years went.. knocking their socks off to NOTHING basically.

    I have been once this year on the severn and only managed 3.. which is not good for the creek i was in.

    Im starting to think the water is too salty for our toothy friends
    Zach Moore
    Delaware Paddle Sports Fishing Team
    Fishal Custom Baits Pro Staff
    Bait Towel Pro Staff
    2017 Hobie Pro Angler 12
    YouTube -

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2015


    Unfortunately I think the Severn creeks will be like 2016. The bay salt levels were high this year
    Hobie Adventure Island 16'

    Slayer Propel 10

    Pelican Trailblazer ( don't hate , pond use only)


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