Out of the many fish out there in the world, the crappie is one of the most fun game fish to catch. It dwells in waters of all 48 contiguous States and in Canada to this day. But despite its popularity, many beginner fishers have no clue what it looks like.
So, what does a crappie look like? Well the term crappie can refer to either the white or black crappie which have slightly different features but have similar shape, sizes and habitats. If you are interested in crappie gear check out my recommended gear page.
They live in freshwater and dwell in areas with underwater brush, rocks and weeds. There’s also a ton of neat ways to be catching them, and interesting facts to these little guys.
Here are some good hooks for crappie fishing. size 8-12 are great!
- White crappies will have vertical bars on their body.
- Black crappies will have spots all over.
- Black crappies dorsal fins will also have needle-like fins compared to white which have a smooth arch.
- Black crappies are shorter and “stubbier” than the white crappie.
So, I’d encourage you to read on and learn more about crappies and their way of life.
The Difference Between White and Black Crappie
The average crappie weighs in between ½ and 1 pound and measures between 5 to 12 inches. Considering this is the average, the crappie can grow to much larger or smaller sizes. Regardless of the type of crappie, they are very social and can form schools in the areas they live in.
But with all that said, I did mention that there were two different kinds of crappie out there: white and black. Even though the crappie live in all kinds of different parts in the US and in Canada, there are some differences that are worth discussing.
After all, even though you and I call them white and black crappie, the features of their skin aren’t always key indicators of which kind of crappie you caught. Both the white and black crappie can be completely light or dark.
Instead, you want to be looking at more distinct features of the fish to tell the difference.
Color aside, the first big indicator is the markings on their body.
If you can’t tell the difference between their markings, don’t worry. There are other factors as well. For example, you can check the dorsal spines of the fish too. Black crappies will have seven or eight dorsal fins. Dorsal means the top fin. White have fewer of these fins – either five or six.
The other thing to note is that black crappies dorsal fins will also have needle-like fins compared to white which have a smooth arch.
The final distinction is the body itself. Black crappies are shorter and “stubbier” than the white crappie.
Where Do Crappie Live?
As I mentioned before, crappies live in freshwater where there is plenty of underwater brush, rocks and weeds for them. That said, now that you know there are white and black ones, they have different dwellings and swimming patterns. Generally speaking, though, crappie will be found in deeper water during the summer and shallow water during the spring.
Getting into more specifics where each type live isn’t too different. They both have the same kind of diet which makes sense since they look pretty much the same. The only big difference really comes down to the water they prefer swimming in.
First off, black crappies prefer the clear water and will avoid any kind of turbid or muddy spots. White crappie couldn’t care less and will leave in either clear or murkier areas. This could be the reason for some white crappies being darker in color.
On top of the water clarity, black crappies also love to be around plenty of vegetation that they can hide in. Again, weeds, brush and the like are things they love a lot. White crappies don’t mind being out in the open. In fact, if you’re looking for white crappie, you might have better luck checking out open water areas in the river.
But despite all of what I said, they’re not just found in rivers and streams as you’d think. Because the crappies don’t have a particular preference for waters in general, they can show up in lakes, ponds, backwaters pools as well. When you’re at larger lakes and reservoirs, they’ll likely be hanging around in the shallow side usually in under 12 feet of water.
What Do Crappie Eat?
Now that you know that crappies can be flexible in habitat to a degree, it shouldn’t be a surprise that their diet is rather diverse. As you might expect, they do eat smaller fish. However, what’s interesting is that they’ll even go after the young of fish that would normally eat them such as the walleye or northern pike. Talk about a bold fish.
Beyond that, crappie will also be eating insects, crustaceans, as well as zooplankton.
What Are Some Crappie Fishing Tips?
If this is your first time going out to catch crappie you are in for a treat. The name of these fish are clearly an injustice as again they are very fun to catch and they are delicious to eat as well. But you can use all of this information above to your advantage to make catching these fish easier and enjoy your reward.
Since you know their diet by this point, you can tackle it from that angle. This will come in the form of your lure. Suitable lure for them are small jigs. Actually, those would be the best bait to be using.
That said, I wouldn’t blame you if you are using live bait. The only thing to note is to ensure the hook is the proper size. If it’s too small, the crappie will get off of it with no problem. If it’s too big, the crappie can’t latch onto it at all.
If you’re thinking of live bait, I would recommend using minnows. All you have to do is hook the minnow right below its dorsal fin and cast it out. Since crappies love small fish in general, they’re going to love munching on these.
Another angle you can approach is their habitat. Regardless of the type of crappie you’re going after, these fish will prefer deeper water in the summer and shallow water in the spring. Use that to your advantage when picking a spot. Even do this during fishing as well. Don’t be afraid to cast into deeper water at times.
Something else worth noting is that crappies also are active during the wintertime making them great for ice fishing.
Crappies also have a spawning phase between May and June, so you’ll have better odds of catching more fish during those times. Trust me, you’ll have a much easier time during that time since a female crappie will lay between 5,000 and 60,000 eggs. The eggs will then hatch between two to five days. As you can guess, they’re fertile breeders and they can over-populate small bodies of water easily if the population isn’t controlled.
Whenever you do catch a crappie, don’t be so quick to move to other spots. Even outside of spawning season, you can find many crappies in a particular spot. Furthermore, when holding a crappie, you want to put its bottom lip between your thumb and bent pointer finger. You want to maintain a tight grip.
Also, before you go out and catch them, it pays to look at state/province fishing regulations. Ensure your permit is up to date and look at additional rules. Some states will have a length and daily limits so take note of those. They may also have a certain amount of fish you can keep in a single day too.
Get Out and Catch Some Crappie
If you can follow the rules and regulations and take note of these tips, you can have a lot of fun catching crappie. Fishing around the month of May and June can ensure you keep reeling in a large amount of fish so long as you have the proper kind of bait. Regardless of it the fish is black or white these fish are a treat all the same.