Scientific Name: Esox americanus vermiculatus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: Ontario, Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2014
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This fish is known from relatively few locations from southern Lake Huron to western Québec. The subspecies has a scattered distribution in Canada and is not abundant in any area. The subspecies could become threatened if habitat quality continues to decline owing to changes in land use and invasive species.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in May 2005. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2014.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2006-08-15
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
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Image of Grass Pickerel
The Grass Pickerel (Esox americanus vermiculatus) is a subspecies of the Redfin Pickerel and a small member of the Pike family (Esocidae). In addition to the distinguishing family features (large mouth; many teeth; forked tail; and posterior dorsal and anal fins), the Grass Pickerel has the following characteristics: Long, relatively shallow body that is cylindrical in shape; Colouration is variable but usually green to brown with 12 to 24 irregular, vertical, narrow, dark bars, and a mid-dorsal brown stripe; Juveniles have a prominent pale lateral band that disappears with maturation; Dusty yellow-green lower fins; Protracted snout, concave in profile; Fully scaled cheeks and opercula (hard bony flap protecting the gills); and usually less than 300 millimeters in total length; maximum total length and weight are 381 millimeters and 500 grams respectively.
Distribution and Population
The Grass Pickerel is largely restricted to the west of the Appalachian Mountains, in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins. It extends from southwestern Quebec southwest to Texas and, in the north, west to Minnesota. In Canada, its range is disjunct and is represented by several populations in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario. It is known in the lower Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers, as well as in shallow bays and tributaries of eastern and southwestern Lake Ontario, and along the north shore of Lake Erie. Populations occur in Lake St. Clair and some of its tributaries. It is also found in several tributaries in the Lake Huron watershed. It has been found in the St. Lawrence River, as well as in shallow bays and tributaries of eastern and southwestern Lake Ontario, inland watercourses of the Niagara region, and along the north shore of Lake Erie. Populations occur in Lake St. Clair and some of its tributaries. It is also found in several tributaries and waterbodies in the lower Lake Huron watershed.
Predominantly located in the U.S., the Grass Pickerel is largely restricted to the west of the Appalachian Mountains, in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. In Canada, its range is disjunct and is represented by several populations in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario. It has been found in the St. Lawrence River, as well as in shallow bays and tributaries of eastern and southwestern Lake Ontario, inland watercourses of the Niagara region, and along the north shore of Lake Erie. Populations occur in Lake St. Clair and some of its tributaries. It is also found in several tributaries and waterbodies in the lower Lake Huron watershed. In Quebec, the last grass pickerel capture was done in 1988. According to some historical observations, the Grass Pickerel was found in three separate areas separated by natural and man-made obstacles (i.e. rapids, dams and weirs): 1) in Lake Saint François; 2) in the main channel of the St. Lawrence River near Coteau-du-Lac; and 3) in Lake St. Louis and its tributaries. In 2014, thirty grass pickerel were caught in Quebec, although the species had not been recorded for over 25 years. Surveys funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada detected the presence of the species in six tributaries of the south shore of Lake St. Francis. The habitat of the Grass Pickerel is characterized by warm, slow-moving streams, ponds and shallow bays of larger lakes, with clear to tea-coloured water, and abundant aquatic vegetation. Bottom substrate is usually mud, but it has also been found over rock and gravel. Adults reach sexual maturity by two years of age. Associated with overland flooding, spawning occurs in the spring in water temperatures of 4° to 12° Celcius; however, there is evidence of late summer to winter spawning as well. Eggs are dispersed and adhere to aquatic vegetation. No nest is built and neither eggs nor young are provided parental care. Adult lifespan is seven years or less.
The Grass Pickerel is a sight predator and feeds on a variety of different organisms throughout its life. Younger fish prefer small invertebrates while larger individuals consume fishes and crayfishes, as well as aquatic insect nymphs. Similar Species - The Grass Pickerel is often mistaken for the young of Northern Pike (Esox lucius) and, less often, the Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). As adults, Northern Pike and Muskellunge are larger than the Grass Pickerel, have a more laterally compressed body, and have 13 to 19 branchiostegal rays. They also lack notched scales and dark bars under the eye. The Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) has 14 to 17 branchiostegal rays and a dark, chainlike pattern on its sides. The Redfin Pickerel (Esox americanus) has a shorter, broader snout and more than five notched scales on the flank and between the pelvic fins.
Grass Pickerel in Canada is at the northern extent of its range. Principal threats to its future survival in Canada are habitat destruction and degradation. Grass Pickerel appear to have specific habitat requirements, and their long-term viability may be threatened by continued development and human encroachment at some locations. Of particular concern has been the loss of wetland habitat through rural land use practices, including agricultural and other development activities. Additional potential threats identified for populations in Ontario and Quebec include drainage, damage/destruction of riparian or aquatic vegetation, sediment and nutrient loading, contaminants input, exotic species, interspecific interactions, climate change, fishing pressure, water level fluctuations (beyond natural seasonal variability), disease and barriers to movement.
More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.
Essex-Erie Recovery Team
Shawn Staton - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Phone: 905-336-4864 Fax: 905-336-6437 Send Email
Quebec cyprinids and small percids recovery team
Marthe Bérubé - Chair/Contact -
Phone: 877-775-0848 Send Email
Alain Kemp - Chair/Contact -
Phone: 877-775-0848 Send Email
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
27 record(s) found.
COSEWIC Status Reports
Grass pickerel Esox americanus vermiculatus is a subspecies of Esox americanus redfin pickerel, family Esocidae. A small form, it is usually less than 30 cm in length, otherwise with features typical of the family: subcylindrical body, dorsal and anal fins far back on the body, snout protracted and well-armed with teeth.
This fish is known from relatively few locations from southern Lake Huron to western Quebec. The subspecies has a scattered distribution in Canada and is not abundant in any area. The subspecies could become threatened if habitat quality continues to decline owing to changes in land use and invasive species.
This fish is known from relatively few locations from southern Lake Huron to western Québec. The subspecies has a scattered distribution in Canada and is not abundant in any area. The subspecies could become threatened if habitat quality continues to decline owing to changes in land use and invasive species.
A subspecies known from 10 locations between Lake St.Louis, Quebec and Lake Huron, Ontario. Its usual habitat is shallow water with abundance of aquatic vegetation. An overall decline of approximately 22% in the area of occupancy has been observed. This decline appears to be related to degradation and loss of habitat due to channelization and dredging operations in wetland habitats where this species occurs.
The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
The Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada is a Species At Risk Act action plan (SARA s.47) for four species: American Water-willow (Justicia americana), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 30 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Thousand Islands National Park of Canada.
In 2005, the Grass Pickerel was designated a species of Special Concern in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2006. The COSEWIC designation was based on the species’ restricted distribution and declining population estimates in three of 10 known locations.
The Grass Pickerel is a sub-species of the Redfin Pickerel from the pike family Esocidae. It has the usual pike-like body (i.e., long, relatively shallow and cylindrical to sub-cylindrical body, large mouth with many teeth, forked tail and posterior dorsal and anal fins) and is generally less than 300 mm in total length with a maximum recorded total length of 381 mm. The global range of the Grass Pickerel is restricted to North America and in Canada, its range is restricted to a small number of populations in Ontario and Quebec. However, in Quebec, the species’ presence has not been confirmed for 20 years. This species is most commonly found in warm, slow-moving, heavily vegetated wetland-associated streams, ponds and shallow bays of larger lakes. They are typically ambush predators that feed predominately on fishes and, to a lesser extent, aquatic insects and crustaceans.
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, hereby acknowledges receipt of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (see footnote a) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed Schedule.
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species".
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species.
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 21
Data Deficient: 1
Not at Risk: 1
Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.
Permits and Related Agreements
The purpose of the project is to determine the sensitivity of the early life stages (glochidia) of endangered species of freshwater mussels to salt (NaCl and road salt).
The purpose of the project is to conduct ecological surveys at 2 sites where proposed works involve the construction of municipal storm sewer outlets. Both project sites have been identified as potentially having fish and mussel SAR present. The Essex Region Conservation Authority (acting on behalf of DFO) and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment require a three season ecological survey all aquatic species (fish and invertebrate community survey) to determine if SAR are present in the proposed project area and assess potential ecological impacts from the proposed project.
The purpose of the project is to conduct comprehensive fish surveys to assess the current geographic distribution and habitat associations of fish SAR throughout southern Ontario. These surveys are designed to meet specific research requirements of various agencies and will yield significant information to contribute to species at risk recovery programs in Ontario.
The purpose of the project is to assess the impact of geo-morphological processes on mussel SAR distributions in the lower Ausable River; determination of the distribution and abundance of SAR fishes in the northern portion of the Old Ausable Channel; identification of critical habitat for Black Redhorse in the upper Ausable River watershed.
The purpose of the permit is to conduct comprehensive fish surveys throughout the province of Ontario. These surveys are designed to meet specific research requirements of various agencies. They will yield significant information to contribute to species at risk recovery. This research will include assessing current geographic distribution and habitat associations of fish species at risk in Ontario.
The purpose of the project is to investigate habitat conditions and potential fish utilization within the downstream reach of the East Townline Drain, using a combination of fish sampling and habitat mapping. Habitat/substrate mapping will also be conducted along the Lake St. Clair shoreline, but no fish sampling is required at this location. This work is being done in consultation with DFO and ERCA to assist in determining potential impacts and/or enhancements that could be incorporated into drain and shoreline works.
The purpose of this project covered by this permit is to survey fish communities, in the Sydenham River watershed, Lake St. Clair tributaries and Lake Huron tributaries, for watercourse classification and watershed reporting.
The purpose of the project is to conduct comprehensive fish surveys to assess the current geographic distribution and habitat associations of fish SAR throughout southern Ontario.
The purposes of this project are 1) Monitoring the presence/absence of various species at risk in newly created open water habitat to determine the effectiveness of past habitat creation/restoration projects; and, 2) the creation of additional, quality habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial species at risk
Biotic sampling is necessary to complete the site characterization and ecological risk assessment to support further evaluation of the risks from contaminants to ecological and human receptors at Point Pelee National Park. Fish will be live-captured in nine marsh pond sampling areas using CCAC approved methods of electro-fishing or nets, depending on ability to access ponds by boat or by foot. Species at risk fish, including Spotted Gar, Grass Pickerel and Lake Chubsucker, will not be intentionally captures, but may be incidentally captured.
Comprehensive fish community surveys will be carried out throughout the province of Ontario. These surveys will yield significant information to contribute to species at risk recovery in Ontario. This research will include assessing current geographic distribution and habitat associations of fish SAR in Ontario.
Field sampling techniques include a combination of passive and active fish sampling gears. The proposed gear types are all non-lethal sampling methods developed to aid in the release of all captured fishes.
Passive Sampling Gears include: Trap Nets, Hoopnets, Minnow Traps and Windermere Traps.
Active Sampling Gears include: Boat Electrofishing, Boat Seining, Manual Bag Seine, Manual Straight Seine and Backpack Electrofishing.
The work will include the identification of fish species and macro-invertebrates for watershed characterization. Annual benthic sampling documents background water quality values. This information will aid in the identification of trends in water quality.
The project is part of the National Rivers and Streams Assessment project to provide a comprehensive assessment for rivers and streams across the United States. It is a probability-based survey of rivers and streams designed to: Assess the condition of the rivers and streams; Establish a baseline to compare future rivers and streams surveys for trend assessments; Evaluate changes in condition from the 2004 Wadeable Streams Assessment; and Help build State and Tribal capacity for monitoring and assessment and promote collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries.
The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the "Eastslope" sculpin (St. Mary & Milk rivers populations), and the Grass Pickerel to the Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding these species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding these species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).
Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the grass pickerel to the Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding this species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding this species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).