White Crappie vs. Black Crappie: All You Need to Know
Jul 4, 2019 | 2 minute read
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Who doesn’t love Crappie fishing? These little critters live all around the US and are a staple of family fishing trips wherever they show up. What’s more, they taste great! In this short guide, we break down how to recognize White Crappie vs. Black Crappie, as well as where you should look for each species.

Difference Between White and Black Crappie

A diagram of how to tell the difference between White Crappie and Black Crappie. The fish are shown on the right, with writing on the left reading "1. Markings on body: Vertical bars on White Crappie. Irregular spots on Black Crappie 2. Dorsal spines: 5-6 on White Crappie. 7-8 on Black Crappie 3. Body Shape: White Crappie longer. Black Crappie more rounded"

It’s easy to tell White and Black Crappie apart, right? One’s white, the other’s black. Actually, that’s not necessarily true.

Both Crappies vary in color. Both can be almost completely light or dark. The main way to tell them apart is by looking at how regular their dark markings are. Black Crappie have irregular dark blotches all over their body, while White Crappie have regular dark bars running down their body.

If the markings aren’t clear enough to tell which fish you’re holding, don’t worry. You can also find out by looking at the dorsal (top) fin. Crappie have hard, needle-like spines on their dorsal fins, which help them stay rigid. Black Crappie have 7–8 spines. White Crappie only have 5–6.

Finally, Black Crappie are normally shorter and more “stubby” than their lighter cousins.

White Crappie vs. Black Crappie Habitat

A Black Crappie being held up by an angler's arm, with trees out of focus in the background.
Irregular dark spots, check. Seven spines, check. Round body, check. Must be Black Crappie!

The two Crappies have a lot in common. They have a similar diet. They look more or less the same. One key difference between them is the type of water they prefer: Black Crappie like clear water and usually avoid turbid, muddy spots entirely. White Crappie aren’t as picky, and will happily live in both clear and murky areas.

As well as water clarity, Black Crappie like to have plenty of vegetation to hide in. White Crappie don’t mind being out in the open. In fact, they spend much of their time swimming in open water.

Despite all this, Crappie inhabit a similar mix of waters. They show up in lakes, ponds, backwaters pools, and slow rivers and streams. In larger lakes and reservoirs, they tend to hang out in the shallows, usually in less than 12 feet of water.

Whoever named these guys “Crappie” really did them an injustice. They’re tasty, they look pretty cool, and they thrive all over the country. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of where to find each species. If nothing else, you’ll be able to figure out which one you’ve caught on your next fishing trip.

How do you tell the difference between White and Black Crappie? Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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