Chain Pickerel

This year I am going to document every species of fish I can catch with a fly rod, as part of the Red Stick Fly Fisher’s 2022 Jambalaya Challenge. I was inspired to do so by last year’s competition, and by the top 2 anglers: Chris (fatfingeredflytyer.com) and Ben (mountainstomarsh.com), who each caught over 40 species! Their dedication to finding, catching, and identifying that many species was a real eye opener. This challenge, to me, reinforces the idea of finding joy in fishing locally, and not always waiting for that big trip, because there are many fish that are commonly overlooked as a target species.

As a side note, I’ve finally had the pleasure of meeting these guys after following them on social media for the past few years. Both are great anglers and good people in general.

When Chris reached out and suggested we go try for Chain Pickerel, I was very interested because I had not caught one on the fly before, and a new species is always a treat. Additionally, this is one species that isn’t found in every local pond, so the opportunity to catch one for the Jambalaya Challenge made it even more exciting. The Chain Pickerel seems to have the reputation as an annoying bycatch for bass anglers, but they are savage predators and feed on baitfish, so what better target for a fly angler?

We loaded up the kayaks and drove to an area Chris had been to before, and based on some online resources, was known to hold pickerel. The water was relatively deep and clear Louisiana standards, and the aquatic vegetation had died back a bit, being that it was February. I began by throwing a Deciever, an unweighted baitfish streamer, towards the bank and working it over the vegetation, which was about a foot below the surface. Nothing came up for the Deciever, so I switched to a Clouser minnow to try fishing a little deeper in the water column. This proved effective as I was able to land 4 or 5 pickerel by dropping the clouser down to about 5 feet of water and waiting for a strike as I slowly stripped the clouser in.

My first pickerel on the fly!

It was a super windy day, but warm for the time of year. We were fighting with the wind in our kayaks, but at least is was blowing in line with the bank, so we were able to drift downwind while casting to the bank, and then paddle back upwind after we had drifted away from the launch a bit. We repeated that process a few times. I also managed a largemouth bass by fortune of the wind blowing me a little farther away from the bank, and letting my clouser sink a little deeper than I had been when fishing for the pickerel.

All in all it was a very successful outing, especially for the middle of winter, when good trips can be hard to come by. Huge thanks to Chris for letting me tag along and sharing the knowledge, I hope I can repay the favor someday soon.

Below are some more pictures from the day, tight lines!

These torpedo shaped fish have razor sharp teeth
Leaden skies on a warm, windy, winter day
Paddling back upwind after drifting and fishing the bank on the left, sunken houseboat in the distance
The trusty 8 weight
Chris getting some good exercise thanks to the stiff breeze
The largemouth, very pretty with some yellow coloration on the bottom
The clouser that did the catching, an unfished one on the left, and the one that landed several pickerel on the right. Sharp teeth!

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