Invasive Species Week 2024: Introducing the Chain Pickerel

(Smallmouth bass individual caught in the Petite lakes by Coastal Action staff. Photo: Contributed by Coastal Action)

What IS an invasive species?

Invasive species are organisms that have been introduced from another region and cause harm to the local ecosystem, biodiversity, and economy by out-competing or directly predating upon native species. They can thrive due to the conditions, their adaptability, and a lack of natural predators or controls.

They are often introduced initially by humans, intentionally or unintentionally, and then can spread naturally from their introductory location.

Chain pickerel are an invasive species in Nova Scotia. Belonging to the pike family, these freshwater fish are native to the Eastern coast of the USA. They were illegally introduced in Nova Scotia around the 1940s and have spread across the province since their introduction. Coastal Action first detected them in the Petite Rivière, where the endangered Atlantic whitefish live, in 2013.

What makes chain pickerel so destructive to our local ecosystems is that they are voracious ambush predators. They have two spawning seasons per year, grow to be larger than most native freshwater fish, and have few predators to control their populations. They will eat any organism that’s in the water, from other fish to amphibians, mammals, insects, birds, and even turtles and snakes, many of which are at risk!

Smallmouth bass are an invasive species to Nova Scotia and threaten native fish species similar to chain pickerel. Smallmouth bass compete with native fishes for resources (food & habitat) and disrupt trophic levels in the freshwater ecosystem. Smallmouth bass were first recorded in the Petite Rivière in the 1990s.

With funding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk, Coastal Action uses various forms of fishing such as electrofishing, angling, and passive fish traps to remove chain pickerel and smallmouth bass from Atlantic whitefish and Atlantic salmon habitats. Efforts occur in watersheds along the South Shore of Nova Scotia such as the Lahave River and Petite Rivère to help mitigate impacts on at-risk species.

Preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species is up to YOU. It’s up to all of us!

(Two of our Species at Risk & Biodiversity team members on the Atlantic whitefish team, Project Coordinator Amy Russell, and Senior Field Technician Rebecca Cunningham. Photo: Contributed by Coastal Action)

Check out for more resources and to learn how to identify and report NS invasive species.


One response to “Invasive Species Week 2024: Introducing the Chain Pickerel”

  1. Charles Weiss

    Chain pickerel are a great fish to catch and eat. The only pike fish in Nova Scotia, l look forward to opening day and catching as many over 24 inches/60 cm in length!

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