They're virtually unknown in southwest Missouri.
But when Sarah Miller set out to catch her first chain pickerel, she discovered just how voracious this predatory fighting fish is.
Miller, 24, flipped a small jerk bait into a spring-fed pond she was shown by boyfriend and fishing expert Tyler Goodale. The pond often fills with floodwater from a tributary of the lower Black River in eastern Missouri, which is likely the way the pickerel got in there.
A small chain pickerel nailed the lure.
"They love the weeds, but their camouflage is so good you won't see them," Goodale said. "She hooked a small one and as it thrashed and fought, three other bigger pickerels moved in looking at it.
"The biggest one snatched it and ran into the weeds."
The double hit came as a shock to Miller.
"Like Tyler said, it was gnarly," Miller recalled. "I've never seen that before. It was big and green with scary teeth."
The bigger pickerel wasn't even hooked. It simply chomped the smaller fish and wouldn't let go.
"You'd think it would spook and let go when she got it up close, but it never did," Goodale said. "I had to pry him off."
Miller successfully landed both fish. Skewered by the bigger one's teeth, the smaller pickerel was a goner. After some quick photos, they released the bigger fish to grow some more.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the state record chain pickerel was caught in 1974 at the clearwater spillway near Farmington. The fish weighed 5 pounds, 10 ounces.
Goodale said his girlfriend's fish was a good one but more than a pound shy of the record.
About those teeth.
Goodale said he gets bitten about every other pickerel he catches because their needle-like teeth are so sharp that careless handling can lead to a nasty nip.
"You definitely need a pair of pliers unless you want to see some blood," he said.
Goodale said chain pickerel are tasty to eat, though they have a lot of bones. Their farthest western range in Missouri is the Eleven Point River, though Goodale said chain pickerels can also be found in the Current and Jacks Fork rivers.
He said any bright, flashy lure will draw chain pickerels to strike.
"They definitely have a set of teeth, he added. "And when it gets chilly, a lot of other species slow down. But chain pickerels like the colder weather. You can catch them anytime."