I think most fishermen really need to take a second look at pickerel and pickerel fishing. Pickerel populations are way up in Oneida Lake. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s Cayuga's north end was more known for pike fishing than pickerel, but nowadays you'd be hard pressed to catch many pike up there -but pickerel? You could catch bushels of them on a good day. Nearly every Finger Lake has pickerel, with the exception of Otisco Lake. From what I hear, an occasional one is caught in Owasco and Conesus, so they are very rare in those lakes, but most Finger Lakes have good populations. Pickerel could use some culling in this region.
Pickerel thrive oftentimes when pike don't. They are more adaptive, can tolerate warmer temperatures and they spawn over a greater time frame. Many of my clients really enjoy catching pickerel, yet so few locals do - with the exception of ice-fishing.
If you prepare for pickerel you'll enjoy them more. Get a Baker Hookout tool and a thick protective glove. Use a double-uni knot and tie a 10" length of TyGer Wire to your line - or at least a section of heavy (25lb or more) monofilament.
Why fish them?
1.) They gobble most lures. So it's a great way to warm up for bass fishing and get confidence in different lures/techniques.
2.) They hit when other fish are lock-jawed. Cold front? Great time to go after pickerel!
3.) They hit HARD! There's rarely a doubt when you get slammed by a pickerel.
4.) They get BIG here in the Finger Lakes. 23" to 24" 2.5 to 3lb pickerel are common on Cayuga Lake. We've seen them up to 27"/28" in Keuka and Seneca. All the Fingers that have pickerel have some big "pike-sized" ones.
5.) They fight good. Very comparable to a similarly sized largemouth bass.
6.) They taste GREAT! If you haven't eaten pickerel you'll be in for a great treat. They are right up there next to walleyes and perch for eatin'. The tail sections just past the ribcage are boneless. Re: the "Y bones" - Try making pickerel patties for a great alternative to hamburgers. Pickerel eat a lot of perch and sunfish - delicious preyfish, and "you are what you eat!"
7.) They are overpopulated and underfished in many of our lakes. So you get a lot of action!