Despite their contrasting names, the black crappie and white crappie are very similar in color. While both fish are olive and bronze with dark spots, the spots on the black crappie are arranged in an irregular pattern while those on the white crappie are organized into a series of vertical bands on the fish’s flanks. Both species feature deep bodies and have mouths resembling that of the largemouth bass.
Fishing for crappie is best in the spring, when the fish move into the shallows to spawn. Casting near structure is the best strategy for hooking one of these fish, which makes them predictable and relatively easy to catch. After spawning, crappie become more widely dispersed. Black crappie are schooling fish, which makes it easy for anglers to catch many in a single spot. They tend to be more active in the evening and early mornings but occur in smaller concentrations than do white crappie.
Black crappie prefer cooler, clearer water than the white crappie, which tends to be found in silty water with lots of suspended material. Found in still backwaters, slow-moving creeks and ponds.
Originally, both the black and white crappie were found in the area west of the Appalachian Mountains north to southern Ontario and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Their natural range extended west to Minnesota, north to South Dakota and south to northeastern Mexico. Today, successful planting has extended the crappie’s range east to the Atlantic coast and west to include California and portions of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Utah and North Dakota. Crappie are native to the eastern two-thirds of Texas but the species can now be found statewide except for the upper portions of the Rio Grande and Pecos drainages.