There are only two members of the Crappie genus Pomoxis. Crappies are small sunfish common throughout the United States and popular among young and experienced anglers.
1) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
Black crappies are small, dark-colored sunfish with a mottled pattern. They are prevalent among anglers and are consequently stocked frequently as sportfish throughout the United States. One can distinguish black crappies from white crappies by counting the number of dorsal spines supporting the dorsal fin. For example, black crappies have 7 – 8 spines whereas white crappies only have 5 – 6. The mouth of a black crappie is also curved upward. On average, black crappies reach around 10.8 inches (27.4 cm) and can live up to fifteen years.
Black crappies hunt in schools in the open water during the middle of the night, around midnight. They hunt crustaceans and small fish, with their prey items increasing as they grow. Where an angler catches on, they can count on catching others.
This species reaches sexual maturity at between 2 and 4 years of age. The breeding season for black crappie runs from the spring to the summer and is dependent on water temperature, with warmer water temperatures encouraging breeding. At this time, males will construct nests and breed with multiple females. A single female will lay eggs in various male nests, producing around forty thousand eggs each season!
Black crappies tend to avoid the bottom of the water column, so bobbers or floating rigs work best. However, they will accept a variety of baits and the best way to target black crappie is to fish near vegetation or submerged woody debris.
2) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
The only other member of the genus Pomoxis is the white crappie. This species can be found in large rivers and lakes. White crappies are silver-colored sunfish with distinctive vertical black bars. Like the black crappie, they are popular among sport fishers. Due to their smaller size, they are known as panfish, a general term for any delicious fish species small enough to cook in a single pan. Compared to black crappies, white crappies are slightly smaller, reaching an average length of around 9.8 inches (25 cm), and can live up to ten years.
White crappies reach maturity between two and three years of age at a slightly slower rate than black crappies. Young white crappies eat small crustaceans; as they age, they will eventually graduate to small fish. As such, minnows are one of the recommended baits for this species. They are visual hunters, so using a flashy bait or a lure will grant you more luck catching one.
During the mating season, which typically overlaps with the black crappie mating season, males congregate in vegetated areas and scoop nests out of the substrate. Sometimes males line the nest with debris. Once eggs are laid within the nest, the male will protect them for several days until they hatch.