Species Spotlight: Black Crappie – New York Almanack


photo of black crappie provided by DECBlack Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), also known as Calico bass, Paper mouth, or Strawberry bass, have diamond-shaped silvery-gray bodies with irregular black blotches. It’s one of the two types of crappies found in North America and is very similar to the white crappie (Pomoxis annularis) in size, shape, and habits, except that it is darker, with a pattern of black spots.

The black crappie’s range is uncertain, as it has been widely transplanted, but it is presumed that its native range was in the eastern United States and Canada. Populations now exist in all of the contiguous United States and it has also been introduced in Mexico and Panama.

It is very prolific and can tend to overpopulate its environment, with negative consequences both for the crappie and for other fish species.

The black crappie’s habitats are lakes, reservoirs, borrow pits, and navigation pools in large rivers. They prefer areas with little or no current, clear water, and abundant cover as well as sand or mud bottoms.

In the early spring, black crappie can usually be found schooled up in shallow water near fallen trees or other woody debris. As the water temperature warms up they move to deeper water.

Female crappies produce an average of 40,000 eggs, the number depending on their age and size. After spawning, the male watches over the nest until eggs hatch, which is usually about two or three days.

Crappies are a very popular sport fish, as they are easy to catch during their feeding times. There are minimal number and size restriction limits for fishing crappie. Most fish caught for sport are between two and five years old. The oldest known black crappie was 15 years old, although most live to about seven.

Through NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Big Panfish Initiative the minimum size limit was increased from 9 inches to 10 inches (with a daily limit of 25) to determine if more conservative regulations create more opportunities to catch larger fish. For a list of study waters where the age and growth structure of crappie are being assessed visit the Sunfish and Crappie Management webpage.

The current New York State Record Black Crappie is 4 pounds  1 ounce, caught in Lake Flavia, Cattaraugus County, on May 5, 2018.

Photo of black crappie provided by DEC.

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