If you want to catch chain pickerel, few offerings will ever top a big, fat mummichog minnow in both fresh and brackish waters. The key to using them effectively, however, lies in the presentation. Ready to go ‘chogging for chains? Use one of these three tactics, and you should be able to get those fish biting.

fishing for chain pickerel
This feisty pickerel ate a mummichog minnow in an eastern shore millpond.

Chogging for Chain Pickerel

  1. WOBBLE the minnow along the surface with no weight and a bare hook. Lip-hook the mummichog, in through the bottom and out through the top, and make sure you have a foot or so of eight-pound test or even slightly heavier leader to stand up to the pickerel’s sharp teeth. Keep your tip high as you retrieve and reel s-l-o-w-l-y. This tactic is usually most effective when fishing over weeds which come close to reaching the surface.
  2. DANGLE the minnow under a bobber, lip hooked on a shad dart, marabou jig, or bare hook. This is commonly the best choice when pickerel are scattered over a wide area and you can make long drifts through open water with little or no weeds reaching within a few feet of the surface. It’s also a good choice when pickerel are holding tight to fallen trees and branches.
  3. TROLL the minnow slowly either with little or no weight. Use no weight in weedy waters, and a small split shot when there aren’t thick weeds near the surface to contend with. This is a prospecting technique best applied when you’re going to a new place and have no idea where the fish are. But to be effective, you need to keep it very slow.

Bonus Pickerel Tip: In millponds and small lakes, pickerel are often found meandering through open water on a surprisingly regular basis. Although it’s not in keeping with traditional theory regarding fish and structure, don’t be afraid to try a drift right through the middle of nowhere.

Tidewater Pickerel Tactics

In tidal creeks and rivers the above tactics will all work, but there are a few other tricks you’ll want to add to the mix.

  • Focusing on piers is a good move; pickerel often hunt close by them, and the shores of many tributaries are lined with docks. Try casting right up to the pilings, and remember that if the fish are sticking close to the structure, you may need to put your offering within a couple feet to get a bite. Casts five feet or more off-target should be pulled in and placed with more accuracy.
  • Shallow ponds attached to a tributary via a small cut or channel are another excellent place to put in some time. They warm quicker than the surrounding waters, and if you find one with some weeds on bottom you may have struck gold.
  • Add some flash to your offerings, especially on bright, sunny days. Putting the minnow behind a Road Runner (a jig with a small spinner on the head) can work wonders. Sometimes, wobbling a small gold or silver spoon does the trick.