White Crappie

Pomoxis annularis

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Image of white crappie
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission
Family

Centrarchidae (sunfishes) in the order Perciformes (perch-like fishes)

Description

Crappies are popular panfish that are deep bodied and strongly compressed laterally (slab-sided). The upper jaw is long, reaching well past the middle of eye. The two sections of the dorsal fin (spiny forepart and soft-rayed rear part) are broadly connected, without a notch between. The anal fin is nearly as long and large as the dorsal fin, and has 6 spines. The upper surface of the head and forward part of the back are strongly concave.

This species of crappie is silver with 5-10 often faint, dark vertical bars. The dorsal fin has 6 spines.

Similar species: Black crappie have irregularly arranged speckles and blotches instead of faint vertical bars as the color pattern. They also have 7 or 8 dorsal fin spines instead of 6.

Size

Total length: 9-10 inches; weight: up to 4 pounds.

Habitat and conservation

Open water in or near submerged timber or other suitable cover in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and slow-flowing backwaters of large rivers. Near vegetation and submerged woody structure in shallow water during spawning period. Most active in evening and nighttime but can be seen during all times of the day.

Foods

Primarily small fish such as minnows and young shad; also aquatic insects and small crustaceans.

image of White Crappie distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Nearly statewide, but rare or absent from many streams of central Ozarks and northwest part of prairie region.

Status

In large Missouri impoundments and natural lowland lakes, the white crappie is one of the most important fishes in the creel. In our state, it's more abundant and widespread than the black crappie.

Life cycle

Individuals usually live no more than 3 or 4 years, but occasionally they can live 8 years or more. They nest in colonies in or near plant growth if available. As many as 35 nests have been reported in one colony. In suitable waters, natural reproduction of crappies may be considerable.

Human connections

Because it reaches a fairly large size and is readily caught, white crappie ranks as one of the most popular panfishes in Missouri. Still-fishing or slow trolling with small minnows near submerged trees or other cover is one of the most effective fishing methods.