The white crappie is moderately large with a deep body, slightly longer than a black crappie. The body is thin in relation to other Sunfish. The back is dark in color, often black to iridescent green with silvery sides. On the silver sides, between 5 -10 dark vertical bands can be found. White crappie are similar to black crappie, but white crappie have only six dorsal spines and a slightly larger eye in proportion to the body size.
Common Names: White crappie, crappie, silver bass
Habitat of the White Crappie
The distribution of white crappie is much smaller than the black crappie. White crappie are found only in the waters of the western part of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the southern part of Lake Huron. This fish is typically limited to the mouths of small creeks and streams or in warm sheltered bays.
Spawning Patterns of the White Crappie
Sexual maturity occurs at an age of 2-4 years. Spawning occurs in late spring and early summer over a 29-day period in water temperatures between 16-20 ºC (60-68 ºF). Spawning happens in short bursts with a few eggs being released at a time; however, a pair may spawn 50 times in as little as 20 minutes. The preferred habitat for spawning is on a variety of bottom types but usually all are adjacent to aquatic plants. Undercut banks are also known spawning areas.
The Diet of the White Crappie
Small fish make up more than half of the white crappie diet but insects also make up a significant portion.
Age and Growth Ranges of the White Crappie
Young of the year fish grow extremely fast growing up to 10 cm (4”) by fall. Habitat is the determining factor in the later growth. White crappie can live to a maximum of 8-10 years and reach lengths of 40 cm (16”). A 30 cm (12”) crappie is typically in its sixth year.
Tips on Fishing for White Crappie
With a very restricted distribution, opportunities to fish white crappie are limited to a small area. Also, because they are relatively uncommon they are often confused with black crappie. When they are found, however, they make a great meal. The best time to catch crappies is during the spawning period. Use small baits such as small spinners, insect mimicking lures or live bait and angle around fallen trees and weed beds in the shallow protected bays.