Species At Risk

Grass Pickerel

(Esox americanus vermiculatus)

Special Concern

Grass Pickerel
Grass Pickerel occurrences map


Like other members of the pike family, the Grass Pickerel has a long, cylindrical body with a long snout and forked tail. The dorsal and anal fins are located well back on the body, enabling sudden high-speed bursts which it uses to help capture prey.

The colour of the Grass Pickerel may vary, but often consists of pale to dark green sides and upper surface with several thin, dark, wavy vertical bars along the sides. The fins are dusky to yellow-green. Adults have a dark bar extending below the eye.

In Ontario, the adult Grass Pickerel is usually less than 30 centimetres long, which distinguishes it from the much larger adults of its near relatives (i.e., Northern Pike and Muskellunge). Juveniles, however, are frequently misidentified because they are less distinctive in appearance and can be the same size as the juveniles of other species.

Grass Pickerel reach sexual maturity at two to three years of age and spawn in the spring (late March to early May). A second period of spawning may take place from late summer into winter.

Action we are taking:


The Grass Pickerel range extends from Minnesota and Nebraska east to southwestern Quebec and south from Ontario and Quebec to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In Canada, it is limited to extreme southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario.

In Ontario, Grass Pickerel is found in coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes and tributaries of Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and inland in the Severn River system.


Grass Pickerel are found in wetlands, ponds, slow-moving streams and shallow bays of larger lakes with warm, shallow, clear water and an abundance of aquatic plants.


Grass Pickerel are threatened by activities that may result in decreased water levels, loss of aquatic vegetation, and decreased water clarity. Specific activities that threaten the species include realignment or alteration of agricultural drains, nutrient enrichment through wide-spread application of fertilizers, manure spills and sewage treatment outputs, shoreline modifications and alteration of natural flow regimes.


The Grass Pickerel is listed as a species of Special Concern under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Although species of Special Concern do not receive legal protection under this act, this species does receive general protection provided by habitat sections of the federal Fisheries Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Grass Pickerel

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Grass Pickerel. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery.You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Farmers and land owners can help improve fish habitat and keep Ontario’s water safe and clean by maintaining natural vegetation next to creeks and rivers, and keeping pollution and soil from washing into Ontario’s rivers. You can find more information about programs and funding assistance for eligible farmers from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association website at www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/species_at_risk.htm.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Often the term ‘pickerel’ is used to refer to walleye (a member of the perch family). In actuality, a ‘pickerel’ is really a member of the pike family.

Did you know?

The Grass Pickerel is a top predator and hunts by sight, either stalking or ambushing its preferred prey. Young Grass Pickerel usually feed on insects, while adults target other fish, sometimes even eating the young of their own species.

Did you know?

The Grass Pickerel is widely recognized as a subspecies of the Redfin Pickerel, however recent research suggests that it may be a distinct species.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.