Freshwater Fish - Species

Redfin Pickerel - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Redfin pickerel

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Redfin pickerel (Esox americanus) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)

The redfin pickerel is a narrowly elongated fish with a duck-like snout that is short and wide.  The body is brown to dark olive in color with numerous wavy horizontal bars with a white belly.  The fins are often bright orange-red to red, especially in spawning adults.  A black bar slants backward toward the gill flap or operculum from the eye, and can sometimes be vertical. 

Range:  Statewide, common in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont

Average Length:  6-10 inches

Average Size:  5 ounces

South Carolina State Record: 1 pound 8.8 ounces (1983)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 6 years (southern populations 4 years)

Preferred Habitat

Redfin pickerels inhabit heavily vegetated slow-moving streams. 

Food Habits

  • Fish


  • Redfin pickerels spawn in January and February when water temperatures approach 50°F. 
  • Females deposits their eggs in vegetated areas where they are fertilized and left unattended.  A large female may deposit as many as 4,000 eggs at one time. 


The torpedo-shaped redfin pickerel has numerous sharp teeth in a relatively pointed snout making it perfectly designed for its ambush–type feeding behavior.  Due to its small size, sport fishing for the species is limited primarily to coastal areas where the ideal habitat for growth exists. 

Commonly Mistaken Species

One species of fish that is commonly mistaken for this species

  • Chain pickerel  
    The redfin pickerel, however, has a shorter snout and a black bar below the eye that angles slightly towards the rear. 

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.