November 29, 2019

Crappie - Black and White

The Crappie is a North American freshwater fish in the Pomoxis genus. In the Centrarchidae sunfish family. Furthermore, both the Black Crappie and the White Crappie are popular pan fish. Other names for the fish include Papermouths, Strawberry Bass, Speckled Bass or Specks, Speckled Perch, White, Perch, Crappie Bass, Calico Bass, Oswego Bass and Sac-A-Lait in Louisiana.

Black and White Crappie feed predominantly on small fish including their own young. As well as, northern pike, muskellunge and walleye. Furthermore, they have diverse diets including zooplankton, insects and crustaceans. The species is less active during the day and will concentrate around weed beds or submerged objects such as logs and boulders. While, moving to open water or approaching the shore during dawn and dusk to feed.

Black Crappie

Pomoxis nigromaculatus

Black Crappie

The Black Crappie is a freshwater fish, similar to the White Crappie in size, shape and habits except that it is darker with a black spotted or mottled pattern. Have a deep and laterally compressed, silvery grey to green body color.

Has seven or eight spines on their dorsal fin. Further, have rows of dark spots on their dorsal, anal and caudal fins. Meanwhile, the dorsal and anal fin resemble each other in shape.

Mouths extend to below the eye and have thin lips. Generally, are 4 – 8 inches in length but maximum reported lengths are up to 19.3 inches. The current world record for black crappie is 5 pounds.

Generally, inhabit lakes, reservoirs, borrow pits and navigation pools in large rivers. Often preferring little to no water currents and clear water with abundant covers such as submerged timber or aquatic vegetation.

Like to feed in the early morning from midnight until 2 am. Individuals typically eat plankton and minuscule crustaceans. While, larger crappie feed on small fish, minnows, insects and crustaceans.

Reproduction and Life Span

Maturity of the Black Crappie is reached at 2 – 4 years. While, breeding season vary according to location but generally in water temperature between 58°F and 68°F, especially in spring and early summer. Nests are built by males sweeping their tails on the muddy or sandy substrates, usually near a shoreline and vegetation.

Generally, nest in the most protected areas. Female crappie produces an average of 40000 spherical shaped eggs, depending on their age and size. After egg laying the male sprays milt over the eggs. He then guards the nest until the fry hatch in approximately 2 – 3 days.

The newly hatched fry is generally about 2.32mm in length and are translucent. Generally, the fry remains the nest for several days before moving to shallow, sheltered waters. While, the average lifespan of the crappie is seven years, the oldest recorded age is fifteen years.

White Crappie

Poxomis annularis

The White Crappie is a freshwater fish. Other names for the fish include Goldring and silver perch. Their body is normally a silvery color with green or brown shades along the back with white bellies.

Generally, have 5 – 10 dark vertical bars along their bodies rather than scattered spots like the black crappie. Furthermore, the White Crappie has a black spot by the gill cover. The dorsal fin starts farther back than that of the black crappie.

While, the anal fin is generally the same size as the dorsal fin. They have six dorsal fin spines and are more elongated than the black crappie. A deep bodied fish with a flattened body, or a depth that is a third of the length of the fish.

Furthermore, have spinous rays and ctenoid fish scales with the exposed part of the scale having a tiny tooth-like projection (cteni). Have a terminal mouth position with many small conical teeth in two rows along the mouth that resemble a wool carding tool.

Rarely exceeds 2 pounds. Generally, they measure 9 – 10 inches in length. While, capable of living up to 7 years. Meanwhile, the current world record for white crappie is 5.2 pounds.

White crappie is native to the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and the Mississippi River basins from New York and southern Ontario westward to South Dakota and Texas.

Generally, found in large rivers, reservoirs and lakes. Are tolerant of turbid waters with little rooted aquatic vegetation. Most commonly found in rivers and low-velocity areas such as pools and backwaters of rivers.

While, most abundant in larger lakes and reservoirs. Generally, found in open waters during the morning and evening and in shallower, quieter waters surrounded with structures during the day.

White Crappie

Reproduction and Diet

Generally, spawn in May and June when the water temperature reaches 56°F. Small, bowl shaped depressions constructed on the bottom around brush, rocks and rocks by the males are used as nests. Females lay 5000 to 30000 eggs that are fertilized by the male. The male then guards the nest until the fry swim away. Generally, the first year of life sees the crappie reaching 3 – 5 inches. Reaching maturity around the second or third year.

The juvenile white crappie feed on zooplankton and small invertebrates. But, when crappie reach lengths of 4.7 – 5.9 inches they are adult and feed mainly on small fish and large invertebrates such as crayfish and hellgrammites.

Comparison between Black and White Papermouths

The main way to tell Black and White Crappie apart is by looking at how regular their dark marking is. Black Crappie have irregular dark blotches, while, White Crappie have regular dark bars running down their bodies. Further, look at the dorsal fin. Generally, there are needle like spines in these fins to keep them rigid.

While, Black Crappie have 7 - 8 spines, White Crappie have 5 – 6 spines. Furthermore, Black Crappie are shorter and more stubby than White Crappie. Another difference between the Black and White Crappie is their habitats. The Black Crappie occur in clear water that is not turbid or muddy and prefer ample vegetation to hide in. While, White Crappie live in clear or murky areas and don’t mind being in open water.

Dark Markings Irregular Blotches Regular Dark Bars
Dorsal Fin Spines 7 - 8 5 - 6
Body Shape Short and Stubby Long and Elongated
Habitat Clear Water that is not Turbid Clear or Murky Water that can be turbid
Cover at Location Needs ample vegetation to hide Often found in open waters lacking vegetation

Crappie Habitat

Crappies are usually found around structures including points, drop offs, creek beds and cover such as bush, stumps and fallen trees. In summer fish can be found at depths ranging from 15 – 20 feet and in smaller lakes they prefer to be very close to woody structures all year long. They can be found in lakes, ponds, backwater pools, slow rivers and streams. As well as, reservoirs.

Crappie Fishing and Crappie Bait

Some of the best tasting freshwater pan fish species. While, their diverse diet allows them to be caught in many ways, including casting light jigs, trolling with minnows or artificial lures using small spinnerbaits or bobbers. Furthermore, crappies are popular with ice-anglers as they are active in winter.

Many methods get used to fish for crappie but among the most popular is called “spider rigging”, a method whereby anglers use a boat with many long fishing rods pointing away from the anglers at various angles like spokes on a wheel.

Further, many different baits may be used some of which include plastic jigs with lead jig heads, crankbaits or live minnows. While, other anglers chum or dump live bait into the water to attract the fish to bite the bait. However, this method of fishing is not permitted in all states. Meanwhile, the fish is regularly targeted and caught during spawning by fly fishermen.

Another method used to fish for crappie, includes locating a popular crappie fishing spot, dropping a line with an Maribou Jig, to the correct depth and bob jigging the line enticing the crappie to bite. Once hooked, reel it ashore.

Daily Bag Limit in Texas is 25 crappie per day in any combination of white, black, hybrids and subspecies. However, they must be a minimum of 10 inches in length. The crappie has very distinct patterns during each season.

During spring, they can be found in shallows. While, the summer sees them suspended in the thermocline. In fall, when the water turns over, they go to any stable water they can find. While, the winter sees them moving into deeper water closer to the bottom. Deep water coupled with some structure and you have a prime winter crappie hideout.

Winter Depths

Crappie go deeper in winter and fall turnover as water is warmer and more stable in the deeper water. Generally, in shallow lakes less than 25 feet, aim at one foot from the ground. Meanwhile, in deeper lakes, over 25 feet deep, aim at ten feet off the bottom.

While, there are various structures that can farther aid the fishing spot. Ultimately, contrast in depth or a funnel-like areas is what you are looking for. Some of these structures include Bay Mouths, Drop-offs and Channels, Inside Bends and points, flats with structures and holes.

Ideal Tackle

Use a fishing pole with a moderate to fast tip action and rated for lure weights 1/16 to ¼ ounce all year. Meanwhile, use a light to moderate sized reel spooled with 4 to 8-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Hook sizes 4, 6 or 8 should be used, with a small split shot weight and a bobber. While, baits that work well include minnows, 1/16 to 1/8-ounce jigs with feathers, synthetic hair, plastic curly tails or tube bodies in a multitude of colors. Furthermore, good reels to use while fishing for Crappie include the Penn Series II reels.

Fish Recipes

Crappie is a very subtle tasting fish that can even be palatable to people that do not eat fish. While, there are various recipes available on the market. Some of my favorite are included.

Potato and Crappie Chowder


4 Cups Hash Brown Potatoes
½ Cup Diced Celery
2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup melted butter
4 cups crappie fillets, chunked
½ cup diced onion
1 to 2 cans evaporated milk


Boil potatoes until tender. Add the fish chunk. Remove when cooked. Sauté the celery and onion until tender and drain them.

Combine the potatoes, fish, celery and onion in a pot. Add cream of mushroom soup, evaporated milk, onion powder and butter. Simmer until hot but do not boil.

To change things up a bit, add crumbled bacon and shredded cheese before serving.

Beer Battered Crappie


12 – 15 crappies
½ Tbsp Salt
¼ Tbsp Pepper
¼ Tbsp Paprika
12 Ounce can of Beer
4 Cups Peanut Oil
1 Cup Flour

Tbsp = Tablespoon


Wash and fillet the crappie. Sprinkle on the spices.

Using a large bowl, combine the flour, paprika and half a cup of beer. Mix thoroughly and gradually add more beer as you make the batter.

Pour the peanut oil into a deep pan, turn on high heat.

Coat the fillets in the batter and carefully drop them into the pan and cook on each side for 3 – 4 minutes.

Filleting the Crappie

Instructions on how to fillet crappie with an electric knife. In this video we show detailed instructions on how to skin and fillet a crappie with an electric knife.

To fillet crappie, hold the fish by the mouth. Holding the pectoral fin back put the electric fillet knife behind the gill plate. Saw through the skin to approximately halfway through the fish. At an angle, work the blade down the fish towards the caudal fin cutting through the rib cage.

Remove the fillet from the skin by working the electric fillet knife down between the fillet and skin. Now you have your first fillet. Simply flip the fish over and remove the second fillet. Now, discard the bony section of the fish keeping the two fillets.

Cut around the rib cage to remove it from the fillets. Preference if given to using a normal fillet knife for this part. Now, you have two beautiful fillets. Once you have removed all the fillets from the crappie that you desire, simply keep rinsing the fillets until there is no more blood in the water. Remove the fillets from the water and they are ready to use. They should be boneless, skinless and clean.

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