White Crappie vs. Black Crappie (Easy Differences to Spot)

black crappie vs white crappie

If you see a couple of anglers causing a commotion, chances are, they have caught black or white crappie!

Considering it is one of the most sought-after freshwater fish in the USA, that reaction is to be expected.

There are a couple of reasons why black and white crappie is high on every angler’s list. For one, they are delicious.

Crappie fishing also happens to be an enjoyable sport, they are quite easy to catch, spawn very fast, and have high commercial value.

To join in on the fun, here’s everything you need to know about the two recognized species, black crappie, and white crappie.

If you’re looking for the best crappie rods on the market, we’ve got your covered.

All You Need To Know About White Crappie and Black Crappie

Scientific Classification of The Crappie Species

Crappies are a freshwater fish species with the largest population in the sunfish family.

In the USA, crappies are found in almost every state.

They were once native to the eastern waters but were slowly introduced throughout America.

Only Alaska and Hawaii don’t have a black and white crappie population.

Both species of crappies are known by numerous names, some of these nicknames include strawberry bass, speckled bass, specks sac-a-lait, calico bass, papermouths, etc.

1) Classification of White crappie

Family: Centrarchidae (Sunfishes)

Genus: Pomoxis

Species: Pomoxis annularis

Order: Perciformes

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Common nicknames: Croppie, Goldring, calico bass, silver perch, speckled bass, papermouth.

2) Classification of Black crappie

Family: Centrarchidae (Sunfishes)

Genus: Pomoxis

Species: Pomoxis nigromaculatus

Order: Perciformes

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Common nicknames: Crappie, grass bass, moonfish, Marigane Noire, calico bass, speck, speckled perch.

While both, white crappie and black crappie belong to the same family and genus, they are two different species.

Crossbreeding between Black Crappie and White Crappie

black crappie

When white and black crappie crossbreed, they form hybrid crappie.

It is a rare occurrence and usually only enabled when the spawning habitat is limited, the water is turbid, there are fluctuations in water levels, and the spawning seasons overlap.

These hybrids of black and white crappie have a short life span and rarely reach maturity, and on the rare occasions that they do, their next-generation hardly survives and the population thins out eventually.

Identifying Black Crappie Vs Identifying White Crappie

The biggest difference between the two species of crappie is the physical one.

Here’s how you can identify and distinguish between the two:

1) Black Crappie

Belonging to the sunfish family, the black crappie is distinguished by its ray-fins.

Black crappie also has very distinct body markings.

The back of it is dark olive with shades of purple and emerald.

The sides and belly of the black crappie are silvery white.

What stands out and earned black crappie its many nicknames is the dark green and black, speckles and irregular dark blotches on either side. It also has spotted fins.

Also note that in black crappie, the dorsal fin and anal fin are symmetrical, and the lower jaw protrudes out.

There’s often a dark brown stripe running down the middle of its back, extending from the front of the dorsal fin up to the tip of the lower jaw.

The stripe goes all the way under the head and along the length of the throat.

The best way to tell apart black crappie from the white one is to count the dorsal spines, which range from seven to eight.

2) White Crappie

white crappie

White crappie has the same olive-colored backs as the black crappies.

The sides too are silver and white with rows of black and brown regular dark bars running along the length.

The body markings of white crappies are slightly different from black crappies.

The black and brown spots on white crappie closely resemble vertical bars, rather than the speckles found in black crappies.

Even though the coloring of the two species is similar, when compared side by side, the white crappie is much lighter than the black crappie.

The regular dark bars are more prominent too.

The dorsal fins, anal fins, and tail of the white crappie are all banded in black.

The best way to differentiate white crappie from black is to count the spines on the top dorsal fin, which ranges from five to six.

White crappie also has a larger mouth than black crappie.

Here’s how you can learn to differentiate between black and white crappie:

Length and Shape

The length of an adult white crappie ranges from 17 cm to 53 cm. With black crappie, a typical adult will grow in length from 13 cm to 31 cm approximately.

While close in length, the two species differ prominently in shape.

White crappie tends to be slightly more elongated.

Black crappie tends to have a more compact shape and a round body.


An adult black crappie weighs about 2 pounds on average.

However, record-breaking black crappies have far exceeded 2 pounds. In adulthood, the average white crappie weighs about 4 pounds.

Dorsal Fin

White crappies have 5-6 spines on their dorsal fins whereas black crappie has 7-8.

Position of the Fins

In white crappies, the dorsal fins are positioned farther from the head.

In black crappies, the dorsal fins are much closer to the head of the fish.

Mouth Shape and Structure

White crappies have a larger mouth compared to black crappies.

Black crappie also has an upward-shaped mouth, with the lower jaw jutting upwards.

Habitat of Black Crappie Vs Habitat of White Crappie

Both, black and white crappie are freshwater fish, but they tend to have different habitat preferences when it comes to their habitat.

1) Habitat Preference for Black Crappies

Black crappies prefer cool, deep, and clear water over murky waters. They also steer clear of turbid and muddy spots.

Black crappies also like to swim in areas with plenty of vegetation to provide cover.

You’d find black crappies in lakes, streams, large rivers, ponds, and water reservoirs.

In freshwater bodies, black crappies love sand bottoms.

Most times, black crappie fish are found in low-velocity spots with little to no currents.

In winters, black crappies flock near the shallow waters.

They also prefer shallow waters when they are feeding or spawning.

2) Habitat Preference for White Crappies

White crappies are less particular about their habitat.

They don’t care much about water clarity around them.

They do tend to prefer open waters and are less likely to hide in vegetation.

White crappies are mostly found in lakes and ponds, large rivers water reservoirs, and streams.

They do not hesitate from swimming in murky waters and have developed a high tolerance for it.

Like black crappie, they also like low-velocity spots such as rivers and backwaters pools.

During the mornings and evenings, white crappie likes to swim in open waters, but in the daytime, they are often found swimming in quiet shallower areas.

Feeding Habits of Black Crappie Vs Feeding Habits of White Crappie

Both species have a similar diet. Although just like their habitat, they do have dietary preferences and have slightly different feeding habits.

Here’s what black and white crappie like to eat:

White Crappies

Young white crappies grow up on zooplankton. As they grow older, they can eat small crustaceans.

By the time white crappies reach adulthood, they can devour and hunt small prey and insects.

The diet of white crappies includes:

  • Bugs
  • Invertebrates
  • Minnows
  • Small fish

Black Crappies

Young black crappie feed on small invertebrates longer than the young white crappies.

Since they live in areas with heavy vegetation, young back crappies’ diet mainly consists of algae and zooplankton.

An adult black crappie survives on smaller fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae. Black crappie comes to the shallow waters to feed.

They are nocturnal and prefer feeding in the evening until the early morning hours.

The diet of black crappie includes:

  • Worms
  • Tadpoles
  • Bugs
  • Small fish
  • Zooplankton

Both white crappie and black (and the hybrid) are ambush predators.

They hunt and feed at night and in the morning.

They have a feeding pattern where they avoid wasting energy and stop to hunt when they have located the prey by sight.

An experienced angler knows that a school of crappie laying very still in the water means they have prey in sight, and that’s the best time to catch crappie, many at once.

Geographical Distribution of Black Crappie Vs Geographical Distribution of White Crappie

Black Crappie

The popularity of black crappie as a sports fish has led to its expansion through stocking.

The black crappie is native to the eastern half of the US. Since its introduction, the black crappie can now be found all over the United States.

It is now populated as far west as the Mississippi River, towards the north till the borders between Canada and the US, and towards the south on the Gulf coast.

White Crappie

The popular game fish white crappie naturally occurs in the freshwaters of North America.

It is native to the Mississippi Basins, the Great Lakes, Mobile Bay, Nueces Rivers, the Red River, and Hudson Bay.

White crappie has also been introduced throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, Panama, and Morocco.

Fishing Black Crappie Vs Fishing White Crappie

The best time for anglers to fish for crappies is morning and the evening.

These are the prime feeding times of both the white crappie and black since they are nocturnal.

You might also head out in complete darkness, after midnight, to catch some crappies and you are likely to have some amazing catches.

Both, white and black crappie like to feed in shallow waters, which is another handy bit of information to help you set up in the right spot.

Live bait, as well as artificial lures, can be used for crappie fishing.

Experienced anglers are big fans of using small and light-colored feather jigs as crappie lures.

Many anglers also head out towards deep waters for crappie fishing.

Although, fishing for crappies in shallow water with minnows, spinners, and spoons as baits results in huge success.

Also, note that crappie responds strongly to fluctuations in water temperatures.

The best time for crappie fishing is when the temperature is between 68° F to 72° F

When crappie fishing for the first time, remember that both black crappie and white have notoriously thin membranes in their mouths.

Using a strong hook or a stiff rod for crappie fishing can tear through the thin membrane surrounding the mouth, and lose you a good game.

Taste of Black Crappie Vs Taste of White Crappie


One of the reasons behind crappie’s overwhelming popularity is its delicious taste.

The meat of white and black crappie is stark white, delicate, and quite flavorful.

Black and white crappies have a similar taste, and it is nearly impossible to tell them apart once cooked.

It is only after you’ve had it many times that you can tell the difference.

The slight variation is that white crappie tastes a little sweeter than black crappie.

Whereas black crappie has a thicker and meatier texture due to its round and compact shape, and black crappie taste is mildly sweet.

It doesn’t have a strong fish-like taste, which is one of the reasons behind crappies’ commercial success.


Crappie is one of the most popular fish in the angling community.

The two recognized and well-known species of crappie include black crappie and white crappie.

Belonging to the same family, the two species have only slight differences in their appearances, habitat, and taste.

The best way to tell the difference is by counting the spines on their dorsal fin.

Black crappies have 7-8 dorsal spines and white crappie have 5-6 dorsal spines.

Also upon closer inspection, black crappie appears visibly darker than white crappie. The latter also has a more elongated body.

Although rare, the two crappie species do crossbreed and produce hybrid crappie.

Black crappie, white crappie, and the hybrids are night hunters.

They start feeding as the evening approaches and continue until the early morning. This is also the best time to go fishing for crappie.

Armed with all the right information, crappie fishing is incredibly easy.

That’s why it is the favorite game fish for the majority of anglers here in North America.