If you’re fishing in any lake in North America, chances are you’ll come across the highly popular Crappie Fish. This highly common fish is popular among anglers, although not as popular as the rainbow trout or largemouth bass. Crappies are still highly prized game fish.
Crappie fish are regarded as among the best tasting freshwater fish as they don’t have that strong fish flavor that some people find distasteful. Due to their diverse diets, Crappie Fish can be caught in a variety of ways which makes them a pleasant fishing experience for both seasoned professionals and newbies.
Regardless of your fishing experience, there’s plenty to learn about fishing for Crappie Fish that will be covered in this guide.
Keep reading to find out more about these fish from what they are, where you can find them, and how to effectively catch them.
What is a Crappie Fish?
Crappie Fish are members of the Sunfish family and are one of the biggest panfish that can be caught. The characteristic that makes Crappies most identifiable is the number of spines they have in the dorsal fin. White Crappies tend to have 5 or six spines while Black Crappies will have 7-8. Two species of Crappie can be found throughout North America, which are the Pomoxis Nigronaculatus (Black Crappie) and the Pomoxis Annularis (White Crappie). They are both a part of the Sunfish Family that also includes the Largemouth Bass and Bluegill. However, Crappies are two of the largest of all the panfish species.
There are other names for Crappie Fish including; papermouths, strawberry bass, speckled bass, or speckled perch, white perch, crappie bass, calico bass, and Oswego bass. If you’re talking about Crappie Fish in Frech speaking Louisiana, expect to hear it referred as Sacalait meaning “milk bag”, which could be due to its milky white flesh or silvery skin.
Crappie fish are distinguishable because they are known as the most palatable species of freshwater fish. Since their flesh is lightly colored, it has very little ‘fishy’ flavor that some people find distasteful.
On average, black Crappie Fish weighs 3.3lbs while a White Crappie weighs 2.8lbs. Most commonly, black crappie fish are around 10.8 inches, or 27.5 cm long. The longest reported length was a massive 49 cm or 19.3 inches long!
Where to Fish for Crappie
White Crappie Fish can often be found in the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and the Mississippi River, whereas Black Crappie Fish are found int he water throughout the Eastern United States and Canada.
Crappie can be located all year round, and understanding where they are located at different points of the year can help increase your chances of making a catch. In the summer and winter months, crappie will form large, looser schools that usually hold near cover in 10-35 ft of water. You can look for oxbows in old river channels or at the basin of a lake. Look in deep timber near channel breaks or humps as reservoir fish are likely to be concentrated there.
River Crappie will tend to hole up in deep backwaters, where a fish finder can take away some of the complications of locating them much simpler.
During the spring, water temperatures will climb to the upper 50s-low 60s. Crappie will move their spawning grounds to shallower wind protected coves with good cover. Anglers will find Crappie near shoreline cover-button willows, cypress tress, blowdowns, stickups and weedbeds, but larger Crappie may be found in shallow, main-lake humps near channel edges by shallow flats that are father out.
During colder months, Crappie Fish are more likely to leave the shallows for deeper water and find their retreat along channel edges or underwater humps. Typically, the more severe the front, the deeper the fish will retreat.
During the autumn months, fishing for Crappie is particularly hard. That’s because one day they could be in 8-foot depths and move onto 20 feet the next- even in the same day! The best advice is to keep moving around until you find biting fish.
Crappie Fish Fun Facts
- Prime feeding time for Crappie Fish are in the morning and evening.
- An adult Crappie will forage for small minnows and young fish, but they also enjoy different food items depending on their breed; Black Crappies will eat more insects and crustaceans than White Crappies and they will forage for insects on the surface of the water.
- Crappie Fish have the largest eyes among other freshwater fish of a similar size. Their eyes have a forward and upward position above their noses. Due to this they will hunt for prey infront and above their bodies.
- Black and White Crappies are triggered to spawn at different water temperatures. Black Crappies will spawn in colder water at around 60-64 degrees, while White Crappies will spawn when the water temperature reaches 65-70 degrees. Black female Crappies can lay up to 140,000 eggs within the nest while White female Crappies will lay up to 200,000 eggs.
- Male Crappies will build the spawning nest for the females and will use their fins and body to carve out a bowl shaped nest. The water usually 2-5 feet deep. The males will guard the nest.
- The type of lure used to attract and catch Crappie Fish will depend on the water clarity and depth. In clear water that is deep, whites and blues are most productive. Shallower, more murky waters require brighter shades such as lime green and bright orange.
- The World record for the Largest ever Crappie Caught was recorded in May 2018. It weighed in at 5.46lbs in Paint Rock, Tennessee.
Top Crappie Fishing Lures and Tips
The way you catch your Crappie Fish will depend entirely on several factors. Many setups will work well for each of the factors.
For the times that Crappie are in deep or sparse cover, an ultralight rod and wheel spooled with a 4-10lb line lets you get down to where the fish are whole pinpointing casts to open cover.
For shallower, snag-infested waters, pole fishing is most appropriate as you can navigate fish brushpiles, treetops and other dense cover more easily. Ensure that fishing lines are not too visible and that your pole is comfortable.
Bobbers or Crappie fishing slip floats help in certain situations while Crappie fishing. They can be used as an indicator as well as a suspension device, showing you when there is activity on your hook. They add weight to enable you to cast tiny lures at an appropriate distance.
Using a drop shot rig is another great option for Crappie fishing. Use a weight on the bottom and suspend the bait 5-10 inches above the sinker. This drop shot rig will put your bait exactly where you need it- near the bottom of the water.
You can choose to use drop shot weights, but you can use a pinch on weight or a small bell sinker if you have one to hand.
Safety pin spinners are a useful tool to keep in the tackle box. They can be snapped on a jig to give an extra lure. In murky waters they add vibration, too. If jigs are no longer working, try switching to some crappie catching lures including ⅛ to ¼ ounce spoons, mini crankbaits and small spinners.
Additionally, remember to bring something to put your catch in. Things like a stringer and a bucket or cooler to keep them in so you can keep them fresh for dinner.
For deeper hooks, a pair of needle-nosed pliers will be helpful to remove them since crappie mouths tend to be pretty small.
Can You Eat Crappie Fish?
Crappie fish are a delicious addition to fish frys throughout the country. Crappie is soft textured and mild in flavor which makes it a great fish for people who don’t enjoy fishy flavor. If you prefer to eliminate the taste of fish almost entirely, remove all of the red parts of the flesh.
Crappie is usually pan fried or deep fried to add flavor, however they can be baked. When baking, make sure not to cook them for too long as the delicate fish can become dry if overcooked.
However, for fried Crappie fillets, make a delicious batter from either cornmeal or flour, milk and whichever herbs and spices take your fancy. Marinate your cleaned fish in a mixture of milk and hot sauce for at least 30 minutes. Remove them from the milk mixture and coat in seasoned to taste flour or cornmeal mix (but garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper are great choices) Fry them in peanut oil for a delicious fresh southern fried taste.