Fish Fact Thursday: Crappie

There are two species of crappie, black and white, that are native to most Midwest and Southern States, but have since been transplanted all over the U.S. both negligently and as a sport fish. Crappie are a large species of “panfish” that feed mainly on minnows, small fish and macroinvertebrates. Black crappies have a smaller relative mouth and a fondness for invertebrates. The easiest way to tell crappie apart is by counting their dorsal spines; black crappie have 7-8 spines while white crappie have 5-6. White crappie have vertical barring on their sides while black crappie have irregular black splotches, but coloration can be deceiving as it varies significantly depending on habitat and water parameters. Crappie are found in impoundments and tributaries throughout Ohio and are well suited to smaller lakes and ponds. Both species of crappie can do well in smaller bodies of water but black crappie are preferred to stock because of their thicker bodies (better for harvesting), spawning preferences and  affinity for aquatic vegetation and the macroinvertebrates they produce. When stocking crappie into a new body of water it’s important to understand how they may affect the system; adding another class of predators can put more strain on prey species and may lessen the average growth of other predators. It’s a common misconception that crappie will always overpopulate and outcompete other pond species; this is not an accurate standard. The success or failure of crappie in your pond depends on the current state of the system, your goals as a pond owner and the amount of work you’re willing to put forth. When managed properly, crappie can be a great addition to your pond that makes for an enjoyable and unique catch, as well as, a great fish to harvest.

Who is A.B. Hillyer? Well, Alec Hillyer is a fishing and outdoor enthusiast! He has extensive knowledge in aquatic biology and earned his Bachelor of Arts in zoo and wildlife biology from Malone University in Canton, Ohio. When not fishing or hunting, he spends his time as a manager at Fender’s Fish Hatchery and is a private lake consultant. He worked for AquaDoc as an Aquatics Biologist and is USDA certified in applying pesticides. Have specific questions for Alec? E-mail him at or follow him on Instagram at alec_outdoors.

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