Story by Tom Pagliaroli

Simply put, they will rip your face off if given ½, no 1/10th the chance!

No, not bluefish, but the razor dentition-rich aquatic assassin: the chain pickerel.

Now living in the shadows of its much larger northern pike and muskie kin residing in the central and northern tier counties, chainsides is pure “South Jersey”, as the current and many decades-long existing state record stands at a mighty 9-lbs. 3-oz. and was dragged from Lower Aetna Lake in Salem County.

Another knock on this most aggressive of freshwater gamefish is that it ducks and hides in yet another shadow: the ever-popular largemouth bass. To be sure, the pickerel (a.k.a. “slime dart” and “weed snake” to name a few) gets in the way of trophy bassers, as the species survive and thrive in the same habitats. Alas, a 24-inch brick-thick chain that whips silly on a crankbait, jerkbait, spinnerbait, plastic worm, buzzbait and/or surface plug is viewed with utter disdain…but a 12-inch (legal) bass is revered and babied, then gently placed in the livewell for weigh-in during a tournament. And after a few feeble tugs.

Go figure.

The vast 105.7 The Hawk listening area is rife with prime pickerel waters, and one can expect smash mouth encounters during June into July. During the mid-July-through-late August swelter when water temperatures are in the 80s, even the always-hungry pickerel put on the eat ‘em brakes and primarily snipe ‘n swipe from first light to about an hour after sunup and again the last hour of daylight.

Great chainsides action can be had on Prospertown Lake, Lake Assunpink, Rising Sun and Stone Tavern lakes, Lake Manahawkin, Turn Mill Pond, Wells Mill Lake, Lake Carasaljo, Butterfly Bogs Pond, Horicon Lake, Oakford (New Egypt) Lake, and Shenandoah Lake, to name but a few.

Crabbing Cranking: Crabbing is improving by the day in Barnegat and Great bays, tidal creeks and lagoons…numbers and size. Drop (hand) lines are the top producer this early in the game, with the box trap coming into its own by the first week in July. Those employing crab “hotels” and “motels” (based on size and style) commercial style traps that can stay in the water for hours and hours and need only be checked once or twice a day, need to procure the $2 license available at license issuing agents such as outdoor sporting goods stores, the local municipal office, or online at On Long Beach Island, the only shop issuing licenses is Surf City Bait & Tackle.

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