Dynamic Environment & Ecosystem Health Research

Chain pickerel in the Maritimes.
Group of people wearing lifejackets, waterproofs and hats in an aluminium boat pulling up a fish gill net from the lake.



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Chain pickerel

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Chain pickerel are not fussy eaters.

Note: If you are interested in potential applications of our research, joining our research group or would like to contribute to our data analyses, please email Dr. Linda Campbell.

Chain pickerel (Esox niger) is a widely introduced fish species in Nova Scotia lakes. It is an aggressive ambush predator which will consume a wide variety of food ranging from dragonfly larvae to fish to frogs. Small mammals, birds and turtles have even been found in chain pickerel stomachs!  Chain pickerel is associated with significant declines in diverse fish and amphibian populations and will impact native sport fisheries.
A graph from Mitchell et al (2010) showing the number of lakes with chain pickerel since 1940s, increasing to over 100 lakes in 2010.

Our work looks how chain pickerel may be affecting contaminant transfer and vulnerable species in many lakes across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We are using stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon and mercury analyses to analyse food web structure connectivity and how chain pickerel may be affecting food webs. 

We are currently collaborating on several projects at those locations that focus on impacts of chain pickerel on vulnerable ecosystems and food webs.
  • Lake Utopia, New Brunswick with Qonaskamkuk - Peskotomuhkati Nation, Eastern Charlotte Waterways and DFO Aquatic Species at Risk.
  • Blacketts Lake and other Cape Breton Lakes, Nova Scotia with Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia Inland Fisheries and DFO Aquatic Species at Risk.
  • LaHave River system, Nova Scotia with Coastal Foundation.
  • Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia with Parks Canada and Acadia University.

DEEHR Resources
  • D Swinemar & B Knockwood. (in progress) Interactive map of chain pickerel & smallmouth reports across the Maritimes. Link.

DEEHR Publications & theses

  • Forthcoming.  Watch this space!
External resources
  • Nova Scotia Invasive Species Council. Link.
  • Alien species in Nova Scotia. NS Government public communication document. Link.
  • NS Fisheries & Aquaculture AIS page with links to fishing regulations and tips for preventing spread. Link.
  • Report: "Impact of introduced chain pickerel (Esox niger) on lake fish communities in Nova Scotia, Canada" SC Mitchell, JE LeBlanc & AJ Heggelin. 2010. PDF document.
  • CBC article on chain pickerel in Kejimkujik National Park (2018, 2019). Link, Link.
  • CBC article on chain pickerel in the LeHave River system (2017, 2019).Link, Link.
  • Go Cape Breton article on chain pickerel in Blackett Lake (2018). Link.
  • Summary of the Yellow lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa) status. DFO Species at Risk. PDF Document.
  • COSEWIC 2013 Status Appraisal Summary on the Yellow Lampmussel Lampsilis cariosa in Canada. PDF Document.
  • COSEWIC 2008 Assessment and Update Status Report on the Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) - Lake Utopia large-bodied and small-bodied populations in Canada. PDF Document.
  • Summary of Atlantic whitefish projects by Coastal Foundation. Link.

Panorama of a blue lake on a clear day, showing a boat landing road, with a small figure walking along the shoreline


- Chain pickerel
- Collaborations and projects.
- Readings & resources.

A row of freshly caught chain pickerel of different sizes on a blue plastic tarp
All images and content copyright (c) Linda Campbell and other members of Dynamic Environment & Ecosystem Health Research Group.