Crappies have the deep and laterally compressed body commonly associated with sunfish. Their mouths are fairly large, typical of fish eaters, with the upper jaw extending below the eye. Dorsal and anal fins are large and similar in shape. Black crappies are typically silvery-gray to white with black mottling. During spawn they often take on a blackish coloring. While frequently confused with white crappie, they are readily distinguished by counting the dorsal spines. Black crappie has 7-8, whereas the white have 6 or less. Thanks to stocking, black crappie can be found throughout much of the United States. Their maximum size is under 20 inches and around 5-6 lbs.
Black crappies prefer clear water with an abundance of aquatic vegetation. Before spawn, they from large schools and move shallow to feed. Crappies are nest builders and spawn in late spring when water temperatures approach 60 degrees. They nest in the spring, generally when water temperatures reach 60°F. Nests are guarded by the males, much the same as other sunfish.
Crappies prefer to feed during early morning and evening periods, but are often active during the day and late into the evening. Smaller fish feed on a large variety of crustaceans, insect larva and plankton. Larger fish typically prefer small fish, such as minnows.
Popular with anglers, crappie can be caught on a large number of lures and live bait and are highly prized for their table quality. Regardless of what method an angler uses to catch they, care is required when setting the hook and playing crappie, as their paper thin mouths are easily torn.
Black Crappie in Texas
Pomoxis is Greek for "opercle sharp", and refers to the fact that the fish's gill covers have spines. The species epithet nigromaculatus is Latin and means "black spotted." The black crappie is easily confused with the white crappie. However, it is deeper bodied than the white crappie, and silvery-green in color. There are no distinct vertical bars, rather there are irregular black blotches. The dorsal fin has seven or eight spines. Males do not develop specialized breeding coloration during spawning season.
Like other members of the sunfish family, black crappie are nest builders. They nest in the spring, generally when water temperatures reach 60°F. The biology of black crappie is very similar to that of white crappie. Growth in terms of weight is very similar between the two species. White crappie tend to have higher growth rates in terms of length, but black crappie are more robust in body construction. Black crappie adults feed on fewer fish, and more insects and crustaceans, than do white crappie.
Black crappie predominate in the acidic waters of east and northeast Texas. Black crappie over 3.5 pounds and almost 4.5 pounds have been captured from Texas public waters and private waters, respectively.
Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife