Crappie are the name given to two species of freshwater fish – the Black Crappie and White Crappie. They are native to North America and are popular as both a game and table fish. They are also however known as Papermouths, Strawberry Bass, Speckled Bass, Specks, Speckled Perch, White Perch, Crappie Bass, Calico Bass and Oswego Bass.
- White Crappie (P. annularis Rafinesque)
- Black Crappie (P. nigromaculatus)
Crappie are a member of the Sunfish family which includes other well known species such as Bluegill, Rock Bass and Largemouth Bass. They are however despite their many names not a member of the Perch family.
Where are crappie found?
As above, Crappie are native to North America with White Crappie found in more turbulent waters in the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Mississippi River basins expanding from New York and southern Ontario westward to South Dakota and southward to Texas.
Black Crappie prefer the clearer waters of lakes in the Eastern parts of the United States and Canada.
They have also been introduced to waters in other countries around the world.
What do crappie look like?
Crappie are a panfish with oval shaped bodies with downturned mouths ad a long upper jaw. They are heavily concaved around the upper part of the head and back. There are also some additions in sub species as follows:
- White Crappie have faint vertical stripes and less spines on their dorsal fins. And as the name suggests, they are lighter in color than their cousins.
- Black Crappie are darker in color with irregular black spots covering their bodies. They also have more spines on their dorsal fins as well.
Crappie generally live for up to around 9 years depending on their habitat and can reach sizes of up to 30 cm in length.
As above, Crappie can live up to 9 years with females starting to reproduce from 2 to 5 years.
Females start getting ready to spawn in late spring as the water temperature warms to around 60 degrees. This can range from late spring in southern regions to during early summer in northern locations.
What do crappie eat?
As with their distant cousins such as Smallmouth and Largemouth, Crappie prey on a large array of food sources including:
- Baitfish (Minnows, Shad, Bluegill and even baby Walleye, Largemouth and Northern Pike)
- Crabs and other crustaceans
Juveniles will also feed on insect larvae, zooplankton, mayflies, and other larval fish.
World Record Size
- Black crappie: 2.47 kg (5 lb 7 oz), caught by Lionel “Jam” Ferguson at Richeison Pond in Tennessee on May 15, 2018
- White crappie: 2.35 kg (5.2 lb), caught by Fred Brigh in Water Valley, Mississippi on July 31, 1957
Crappie can be caught all year round as follows:
- Winter – Although they don’t feed as much, Crappie do still move around quite a bit during the winter months and can even be caught under the ice. They are found in schools in deeper holes during this time so a good fish finder will help here.
- Spring – As with most freshwater species, spring is for spawning and feeding. As the water temperature increases after winter, Crappie will start to actively feed and move to shallower water as they prepare for the spawn – often called pre-spawn. All in all, many ‘experts’ call the spring pre-spawn season as the best time of year to fish.
- Summer – The general rule of thumb for summer is that Crappie tend to either go deeper to cooler water or in shallower lakes, will seek the shade of a structure. Fishing is better early morning, late afternoon or at night when the water is a little cooler as well. If you are fishing in the daytime, leave the surface lures at home.
- Autumn – Autumn is considered another great period for Crappie fishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the water is cooling after the summer heat bringing the fish out of the depths and secondly, they are fattening up for winter.
It should be noted here that many jurisdictions implement seasonal restrictions and well as licensing and bag limit regulations -always check with local fishing authorities if you are fishing in a new area.
Best Gear for Catching Crappie
Fishers use both spinning and baitcaster reels effectively and successfully. In general, to catch Crappie you will need
Spinning reel – 1000 – 3000 – lined with mono or braid
Baitcaster reel – 100 – 300 – lined with mono or braid
Rod and Reel combo – around 7ft and matching of reel size
Can you eat Crappie?
Although chased more as a game fish, Crappie is still a popular table fish with a soft texture and mild flavor. It is similar in taste to Bluegill and as with most freshwater species, their taste is heavily influenced by their environment.
It can be cleaned and is best cooked by by filleting and then either pan frying, grilling or deep frying.
- Pan frying
- Deep frying
Get your Crappie recipes here.