Getting to Know Crappie: The Black and White of Identification

You can call them crappie or sac-a-lait. But one thing is certain: it’s hard to beat the thrill of dropping dozens upon a cooler. Crappie are more than fun to catch, they make fine food, as any crappie enthusiast will attest.

This makes it clear why, in many areas of America, fishing for speckled predators has become a rite and tradition that is passed down through the generations.

You probably know quite a bit about crappie and their behavior if you have spent your life chasing them. Do you know the difference between the primary species?

See it for yourself! Try our best crappie fishing methods to catch white and black crappie!

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Crappie Basics

Crappie is a predatory fish belonging to the genus. There are two species of crappie: P. annularis (also known as the white crappie) and P. nigromaculatus (also known as the black crappie).

Many anglers believe that color, pattern, or shape is the best way to distinguish them. White crappie is lighter and has darker stripes running down their sides, as they will tell you. Their noses are also longer, they’ll tell you.

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Contrary to this, conventional wisdom states that black crappie is darker, more speckled, and have stubbier faces.

It’s not difficult to tell the difference, but it is easy to see in the above picture. The black crappie is below the white crappie. The difference in color, pattern and facial form can be clearly seen.

Even at a glance, you can see which one is which.

Both species can change their colors throughout the year, so it is difficult to distinguish them by the patterns alone. For example, both species’ males can turn blue during the spawn. Both species can also be very light in muddy waters, sometimes even without clear markings.

What species is it?

This little black crappie is pale! Do not let the nearly vertical pattern fool your eyes!

Pay attention. Counting spines on the dorsal end of the fin is the best way to make sure. Black crappie has seven spines, while white crappie has six. That is 100% possible.

Marine biologists also use other methods. The distance from the center of the eyes to the dorsal end of the black crappie is the same as the length of its dorsal tail. This ratio is different for white crappie because of their long faces.

This black crappie is a light-colored fish with a pattern more like its white siblings.

Hybrid and Unusual Rappie

Black and white crappie will be the most common, but there are other options.

Blacknosed Crappie

P. nigromaculatus is a natural predator. P. nigromaculatus and P. annularis sometimes fertilize each other’s eggs, creating a hybrid species called “black nosed.” Blacknosed crappie isn’t an individual species. They are a mix of a few recessive genetics that gives them that distinctive racing stripe.

Blacknosed crappie is also less likely to reproduce as well as their parents, which allows them to grow rapidly. They will often grow a little larger than blacks and whites, making them attractive targets for anglers.

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Magnolia Crappie

Crappies are known for being aggressive breeders and can quickly become overpopulated in small ponds. Mississippi wildlife managers tried to change this by creating crappie that is reliable sterile, fast-growing, and easy for them to breed.

By helping to reproduce the Magnolia crappie, they were able to create a hybrid. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks states that eggs and milt are removed and hand-mixed before the eggs are placed into a pressure chamber. This causes triploidy, which is the formation of three sets of chromosomes. Because it has three sets of chromosomes, the result is sterile. They are unable to reproduce so they were stocked in smaller water bodies such as Lake Charlie Capps, where fertile crappie would overproduce. Few would grow to harvestable size because they lack enough food.

According to the Times Daily, they were stockpiled in places like “Lake Mike Conner”, Lake Claude Bennett and Prentiss Walker Lakes, Simpson County Lakes, and Lake Jeff Davis.”

This crappie, like other hybrids, can be identified by its racing stripe that runs from its nose to the dorsal fin. They are a fast-growing hybrid that is a bit larger than the naturally occurring species.

Golden Crappie

Although not mythical, the golden crappie can be found in such a small amount of water that it is almost impossible to count the number who have caught one.

Even wildlife biologists don’t know much about the causes of this color variation. Steve Volkman (pictured below) brought in his catch and asked for help. Ryan Koenigs is the senior biologist at Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources.

First, you should consider yourself extremely lucky if you can catch one of these. You should also bring it to your local wildlife management office so that they can inspect it!

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Crappie Behavior: The Black and White

Crappie species matters, and you will find they have different habitat preferences even within the same lake.

What are the similarities in behavior?

Crappie is ambush predators that hunt in low light, and both species and hybrids are morning and evening feeders. Crappie can be caught in the 90 minutes before dawn and midnight to 2 a.m.

Crappie follows an unusual and energy-saving feeding strategy. Crappie stop hunting and locate prey by sight. This prevents them from wasting energy searching for food and is something that a knowledgeable angler will make use of to their advantage. If you find a still school, they will be searching for prey and you can continue hitting them, catching fish after the catch.

Both species love covers such as submerged brush piles and treetops. You’ll also find that crappies are attracted to vertical structures.

What are the behavioral differences between these two groups?

Both crappie species’ young eat zooplankton, tiny invertebrates, and then move on to predate small fish like shad. Black crappie consumes more insects and other invertebrates as they grow older, while white crappie eats almost exclusively minnows.

They are more likely to live in clearwater close to weed beds or other vegetation than black crappie. They will not school in open water and tend to hug their cover more closely.

White crappies, on the other hand, like muddy water or strained water but are open to learning in the open.

Last Thoughts

Crappie is second in popularity among anglers to bass, and you’ll see why after a few weekends of catching them. Crappie is a great fish to catch and they taste great!

These identification tips were you familiar with? Did you discover something new?

Leave us a comment down below. We would love to hear from you!

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.