Fish and Aquatic Conservation

illustration of a Black crappie

Black crappie

Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Lesueur, 1829)

Cool Facts

The easiest way to determine the difference between a black crappie and a white crappie is to count the number of spines in the dorsal fin. They also have seven to eight spines in their dorsal fin and white crappie have six. Black crappie have irregularly arranged speckles and blotches in their color pattern as opposed to the faint vertical bars of the white crappie. The oldest reported age for black crappie is 15 years The heaviest published weight for a black crappie is 2.7 kg (5.9 lbs.) Black crappie may compete with walleye when found in the same habitat and because the feeding habits of these species are very similar. Black crappie are less tolerant of turbid water than white crappie

SIZE: The common length for black crappie is 27.5 cm (10.8 inches) and the maximum reported length for a black crappie is 49 cm (19.3 inches).

RANGE: The native range for black crappie in North America extends from Virginia to Florida along the Atlantic coast and southwest along the Gulf of Mexico from the western panhandle of Florida across to Texas. Black Crappie also can be found within the St Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins.

HABITAT: Adult crappie are found in lakes, ponds, sloughs, backwaters pools and streams. Crappie prefer cover, such as such as vegetation, fallen trees or boulders. They often form schools in clear water among vegetation over mud or sand.

DIET: Black crappie, up to 16 cm (6.3 inches), feed on planktonic crustaceans and free swimming, nocturnal, and larvae. Larger individuals are basically piscivorous and feed primarily on small fish.

Natural History

Black crappie are a freshwater species. They often form schools and feed early in the morning. Black crappie inhabit temperate waters. In the spring during spawning season, male crappie begin building nests by clearing sand, mud or gravel from the water bottom in preparation for the egg laying females to arrive. Upon their arrival, female crappie may spawn with different males in more than one nest. Spawning involves the simultaneous extrusion of eggs by the females and milt by the males in the nests they had previously prepared before the female crappie had arrived at the spawning habitat. After spawning, male crappie guard the nest for approximately 5 days or until the juvenile crappie begin to emerge from their eggs and begin to feed.


Black crappie are primarily a recreational fish and are managed through recreational fishing regulations which may include, but not limited to season, bag/creel limits, size limits or water body. Another method for managing black crappie includes protecting their habitat. When Black crappie inhabit lakes, maintaining the proper predator/prey balance is essential to the sustainability of this species.