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What is a Crappie?

By Ken Black
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Crappie are a type of freshwater fish of the genus Pomoxis in the sunfish family. The fish is one of the most sought-after game fish and is plentiful in lakes in rivers through the United States and parts of Canada. While it was originally native only to the eastern part of the continent, its range has been extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts.

Crappie are known for their fighting ability and aggressiveness when they strike a bait. While they are usually easily hauled in, simply because of their smaller size, it may be hard to find a more entertaining fighter once hooked. They jump swim very fast from side to side, trying to find an advantage.

Crappie come in two different varieties, white and black. In actuality, there is very little difference between the two. Each have darker areas running front to back along the back of the fish with sides that are almost silvery. Both also have black spots, though the spots are more organized on white crappie. The dorsal spines account for the other difference. White crappie have six dorsal spines and black crappie have seven to eight.

Crappie are not a large species, as far as game fish go. They are not as flashy or as popular as bass. The vast majority of those caught are less than 2 pounds (1 kilogram). The world record, for both black and white crappie, barely exceeds 5 pounds (2.26 kilograms). However, they offer something many other game fish species do not -- the opportunity to catch them in huge numbers.

It is not uncommon for crappie to be schooled together in very impressive numbers. Also, because they are so common in many areas, bag limits are either non-existent or very generous in most jurisdictions. In some cases, bringing home 40 to 50 fish a day, per boat, is an average day. Once a school is found and the right bait is used, it can be very easy to catch a crappie, or dozens of them. Further, crappie are considered to be among the best tasting of freshwater fish.

A crappie's diet is very diverse. As a predatory species, they tend to like cut bait, small fish offered as live bait, or smaller lures. The fact they have such a diverse diet often means a great variety of lures can be used in catching them. In fact, some anglers may be surprised when they strike at very large lures, much larger than they could probably actually swallow, had it been a natural prey.

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Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Oct 20, 2011

@Emilski - That's kind of funny. I live in Wisconsin and have a friend who moved up here from Tennessee, so it's kind of the opposite situation.

We went fishing one day, and he also kept talking about brim, and I had no idea what he was referring to. He finally caught a "bream" and showed it to me. Apparently, in the south, what they call brim is what people in the north typically call bluegill.

As far as I know, crappie are still crappie in the south, because he used that name for them.

By Emilski — On Oct 19, 2011

I am another of the nonfishers of the world, but that is mostly because I grew up in the city where there weren't a lot of chances to go fishing.

I know what some fish look like, but what I wanted to ask about was whether crappie were the same as brim. I grew up in Indiana and everyone talked about fishing for crappie. Now I live in Georgia and I have a friend who fishes every now and then. I have heard him talk about brim, but I wasn't sure what that was. He described them to me, and it kind of sounded like a white crappie, but not really. Does anyone have any ideas?

By cardsfan27 — On Oct 18, 2011

@TreeMan - Don't feel bad. That is a pretty common question when people first see the name. The pronunciation is the nonoffensive version. It sounds like "croppy" when you say it.

I've never really thought much about what crappie would naturally eat. When people fish for them, though, they usually use what are called crappie jigs. They are small feathery things with a hook hidden in them.

Personally, I have never had success catching crappie with worms, and I don't know anyone who uses worms for crappie. You might get one every now and then, but it's not common with worms. That makes me think maybe they don't eat them as much as they do other things.

By TreeMan — On Oct 18, 2011

So, maybe this is a dumb question, but how exactly do you pronounce the name of this fish? I have seen it spelled out a lot, but I don't know that I've ever actually heard anyone pronounce it. As I'm sure you can tell, I am not a fisher and don't really know anyone that is.

The article doesn't mention it, but do they also eat worms? I figured all fish did, but maybe not.

By indemnifyme — On Oct 17, 2011

@SZapper - That is a bit hypocritical. If you feel that strongly about the suffering of animals, perhaps you should look into a vegetarian or vegan diet.

I'm not sure if this will make you feel better, but I read someone that crappie have a tendency towards overpopulation. As I'm sure you know, the overpopulation of one species in an area is usually pretty bad for the environment. So really, crappie anglers are doing an environmental service by catching these fish!

By SZapper — On Oct 17, 2011

You know, as common as this fish apparently is, I've never seen crappie on any restaurant menu! Weird. I suppose they might sell it in stores around here though, I'm not sure. I don't eat that much fish, and when I do I usually stick with salmon.

Anyway, I don't know what to think about the fact that crappie are "entertaining" when hooked. I do eat fish, so this might make me a hypocrite, but fishing just sounds so barbaric to me. I can't imagine being entertained by another creatures distress. That's just me though.

By goldensky — On Oct 16, 2011

@whitesand - I've always been pretty lucky fishing in the canals where there's lots of crappie bait or little baitfish that attract the crappie bluegill.

You can usually find loads of them in areas where there's a sunken object and along the shoreline where there's lots of weeds and reeds growing around.

Once you find your location, remember it cause you can always come back for more next year or next week.

By Markus — On Oct 15, 2011

@whitesand - Throughout most of Florida, the crappie is referred to as the speckled perch. They're abundant on Lake Okeechobee and are the most sought after pan fish on the lake.

You'll probably get a lot of crappie fishing tips from your post but the one thing I can tell you is you have to get to know the nature of the fish and it's habitat.

First thing, you'll find more crappie fish during the spring and the fall, and secondly they prefer shallow areas with lots of vegetation.

By whitesand — On Oct 15, 2011

I went out fishing on Lake Okeechobee here in Florida several times this past summer but never had any luck at finding the crappies.

As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed since I've heard they're abundant down here on the Florida lakes and rivers and other fisherman catch them like crazy.

Are there some kind of crappie fishing secrets I should be aware of or what?

Sport fishing is my new hobby and I plan to head back down to the lake next summer to try my hand at crappie fishing again.

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