White Crappie

Pomoxis annularis

Last updated: January 31, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock.com

White crappies are extra sensitive to movement in the water due to the extra lens in their eyes.


White Crappie Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Pomoxis annularis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

White Crappie Conservation Status

White Crappie Locations

White Crappie Locations

White Crappie Facts

insects, own young, minnows, young American shads, invertebrates
Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Group
  • School
Fun Fact
White crappies are extra sensitive to movement in the water due to the extra lens in their eyes.
Most Distinctive Feature
Silvery coloring with dark spots in vertical bands
Average Spawn Size
27,000 to 68,000
freshwaters in reservoirs, lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers
walleye, largemouth bass, northern pike
  • Nocturnal
  • Group
Common freshwater fish in North America

White Crappie Physical Characteristics

  • Silver
Skin Type
up to 10 years
2 pounds
9-10 inches

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The white crappie belongs to the sunfish family. White crappies inhabit freshwater, from lakes and ponds to small streams and big rivers.

White Crappie Summary

The white crappie is most often found in warm, muddy water. It is very similar to the black crappie, with just a few visual differences. The color is generally lighter than the comparable black crappie or calico bass. It also likes to hang around in clear lakes and streams and has a silvery appearance with irregular dark patterns.

Pomoxis annularis, or white crappies, inhabit the North American freshwaters. This species comes originally from the waterways that drain into the Mississippi and Great Lakes. They are relatively small fish that rarely exceed 11 inches long.

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As a result of its popularity as a game fish, this species has been extensively introduced into waterways throughout the United States and southern Canada. This has made the white crappie a widespread species found in various bodies of water across North America.

5 Incredible White Crappie Facts

  1. White crappies are sensitive to even the slightest movements in the water. It can see well in the dark because of the extra lens in its eyeball and the large concentration of red-sensitive pigments in its retina.
  2. The white crappie is one of the most sought-after panfish in Missouri because it grows to a decent size and is simple to catch.
  3. There are six dorsal spines on this species.
  4. The heaviest white crappie ever captured was 5.3 pounds and was caught in Mississippi.
  5. Crappie jaws are lined with several tiny, conical teeth (called cardiform) that resemble a wool carding tool.

White Crappie Scientific Name

The scientific name of the white crappie is Pomoxis annularis. The Greek word pomoxis means “opercle sharp,” which describes the spines on this fish’s gill coverings. Dark bands (vertical bars) surrounding the body are called annularis, which translates to “having rings” in Latin.

White Crappie Appearance

The white crappie has a flat body and silvery coloring. There are several dark vertical stripe-like patterning on the side. In preparation for the spring spawn, some males may change the color of their throats to a deep black. The fish has a broad tail fin and a standard dorsal fin that juts out toward the back of the animal.

White crappie, like its black counterpart, has a mouth at its terminal position and is equipped with numerous tiny teeth in two rows; this arrangement is known as cardiform because it resembles a tool used for wool carding. Crappie matures at a length of nine to ten inches and a weight of around two pounds.

White Crappie

White crappie fish’s appearance is silvery and shiny in the sunlight.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock.com

White Crappie Evolution and History

The white crappies were widely introduced to other parts of the United States and Canada in the late 1800s and early 1900s as game fish. The introduction of this species was done in order to improve the sport fishing opportunities in the region. White crappie was also used for commercial purposes as well.

They were caught and sold for human consumption. White crappie has been known to hybridize with black crappies, a very closely related species, which has led to confusion among anglers and scientists about the distribution and abundance of the two species.

White Crappie Behavior

Generally, white crappies are much more active at night and at dawn, which is when they typically feed.

Prolonged exposure to cold has a negative impact on these fish, so white crappies tend to avoid cold water and stick to shallow water near the surface.

The fish move around in loose schools and settle in locations with plenty of shelters, such as regions with underwater vegetation, rocks, or even fallen trees. During spawning season, white crappies disband into smaller groups, but after the season is over, they reassemble and migrate to deeper waters.

White Crappie Habitat

White crappies are freshwater fish that can be found in a variety of habitats, including reservoirs, lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers. They prefer larger bodies of water and tend to stay near the surface, typically above the thermocline (point in the water depth where the water is no longer warmed by the sun).

They can survive in a wide range of temperatures but thrive in cooler waters and tend to be found in clear waters. When both white and black crappies are present in the same area, white crappies prefer warmer water and can thrive in murkier water than black crappies.

White Crappie Diet

White crappies are primarily filter feeders as juveniles, having big mouths and closely spaced gill rakers. They begin life as springtime babies and feed on zooplankton. Little crustaceans are easy pickings for them as they mature in the fall and winter. By the time they’re two years old, they can handle food like tiny fish and insects.

Adults often feed on tiny fish like minnows and juvenile shad, albeit this dietary preference is very location-specific. Most of their food is consumed between the months of June and October. During the winter, they remain relatively inactive and do not feed much, and then they resume a modest pace of feeding in the spring.

What Eats White Crappie?

Freshwater predator fish, like the walleye, largemouth bass, and northern pike, eat white crappies. Largemouth bass and walleye don’t eat white crappies until they are at least at the larvae stage or juvenile stage of their lifecycle. Adult crappies are the primary prey of the northern pike.

In addition to being a target for sports fishermen, white crappies are frequently caught by humans for cooking.

What Does The White Crappie Eat?

Crappie is a predatory fish that eats everything from insects to their own young.

Adult white crappies mainly eat smaller fish, like minnows and young American shads. They will also eat large invertebrates, like crayfish. But their diet will vary according to their location.

White Crappie Predators And Threats

Occasionally, freshwater mussel larvae may find a host in white crappie and make themselves at home there.

These mussels connect to the host’s body. Leeches can attach to their gills if they live in ponds. White crappies can be affected by a parasitic fluke in their liver, particularly in certain reservoirs.

White Crappie Reproduction

Offspring from White Crappies are produced in the early summer or late spring (depending on water temperature and local climate).

Two to three-year-old white crappies may reproduce successfully. When the water temperature gets warmer in May and June, they begin to spawn. White crappie females who are slightly older than two to three years are the most fertile and tend to lay more healthy eggs. A female may carry up to 232,000 eggs at once, although she doesn’t always produce all of them in one go. Instead, they will spawn eggs between six to twelve times, with the typical nest containing between 27,000 and 68,000 eggs. The eggs adhere to the nest floor.

It takes around 42 hours for eggs to hatch in warmer temperatures and about 103 hours to hatch in lower temperatures after they have been fertilized.

Females may clear up the nest of debris after laying their eggs, but they never stay. When anything falls into the nest, the male will use his fins to sweep it out. They are very protective of their eggs and their offspring after they hatch. But because the male may consume the young, the tiny white crappies leave the nest as soon as they can swim.

White Crappie Babies

Crappies start out as eggs and are larvae right after hatching. They then morph into juveniles (also called fingerlings). Larva and juveniles stay in the same general area they are hatched in and do well in schools of varying sizes.T he babies leave their nests as soon as they can swim so that they don’t get eaten by male crappies. Young crappies are also at risk of being eaten by predatory fish. So, they hide in areas that provide cover from predatory fish, including beneath rocks, deep in crevices within rocks along the beach, behind weeds, or under sunken trees. 

Crappie fingerlings devour aquatic organisms, including zooplankton, insect larvae, and other small crustaceans. Because larger fish also compete for these meals, only the hardiest newborn crappies have a chance of thriving in open waters.

White Crappie Lifespan

White crappies may live up to 10 years, although on average, only 3 to 4 years in uncontrolled waters and 6 years in managed waterways.

Like many fish species, white crappies can experience overpopulation in certain conditions. When a body of water has an abundance of food and few natural predators, crappie populations can grow rapidly. This can lead to competition for resources and overcrowding, which can negatively impact the overall health and survival rate of the fish. In addition, overpopulated crappie populations are more susceptible to disease and parasites, as the close proximity of the fish allows for the easy spread of pathogens.

All of these factors can contribute to the shortened lifespan of white crappie.

White Crappie Population

This species has a vast distribution in the United States and a steady population at the present time. For the time being, this species is considered of “least concern” by conservationists.

White Crappie In Cooking

Crappie fishing is a popular pastime and a lucrative industry. Its white, flaky meat tastes sweet and delicate without a strong fishy taste. Some of the most well-liked preparation techniques include frying and filleting.

Crappies are plentiful and easily accessible all year, especially when the lake is covered in ice; however, local governments may strictly limit how many can be caught. This fish may be caught with a wide variety of rods and lures.

Crappie is not only a tasty option for dinner but also a highly nutritious one. Thiamin, niacin, B vitamins, B12, D, and calcium can all be found in crappie. The fish poses no danger to humans since it contains no poison or toxins and is thus suitable for human consumption.

Similar Animals

  • Black crappie: White crappies are often mistaken for black crappies. They have slightly different coloring, which sets them apart.
  • Freshwater Sunfish: White crappies belong to the sunfish family.
  • Blue Catfish: This is the largest catfish in North America. Similar to the white crappie, it lives in freshwaters around the continent.

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About the Author

Lev is a writer at AZ Animals who primarily covers topics on animals, geography, and plants. He has been writing for more than 4 years and loves researching topics and learning new things. His three biggest loves in the world are music, travel, and animals. He has his diving license and loves sea creatures. His favorite animal in the world is the manta ray.

White Crappie FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are white crappie carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

The white crappie is a carnivorous fish and mainly feeds on other small fish and insects.

What sets apart white crappie from black crappie?

The white crappie has blue or gray dots in vertical bands that are easy to see. The black crappie, on the other hand, has black spots that are more spread out and hard to see. One further distinction is the number of bony spines on the dorsal fin.

What is the top bait for crappie fishing?

Crayfish, minnows, and flies are all great choices for bait when fishing for white crappie.

When is the ideal time to go crappie fishing?

Crappie fishing is at its peak between daybreak and sunset. However, the afternoon is often the best time to head outside in the winter months. Given that crappie like to feed in dim light, nighttime fishing is an excellent option if you have it.

Can crappie be eaten raw?

Yes, crappie can be prepared raw and can be eaten as sushi, sashimi, or even ceviche!

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. Animal Diversity, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Pomoxis_annularis/#lifespan_longevity
  2. Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here: https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/crappie-white
  3. Texas Parks and Wildlife , Available here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/wcp/

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