Scientific Name: Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Ideal Temp: 68-75°F (20-24°C)
Environment: Lake, River
Technique: Casting, Fly, Jigging
Lure Type: Crankbaits, Flies, Jigs, Spinnerbaits
World Record: 2.26 kg (5 lb 0 oz) Private Lake, Missouri , USA
The black crappie, is a freshwater fish found in North America, one of the two crappies. It is very similar to the white crappie in size, shape, and habits, except that it is darker, with a pattern of black spots.
Black crappies are most accurately identified by the seven or eight spines on its dorsal fin (white crappies have five or six dorsal spines). Crappies have a deep and laterally compressed body. They are usually silvery-gray to green in color and show irregular or mottled black splotches over the entire body. Black crappies have rows of dark spots on their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. The dorsal and anal fins resemble each other in shape.Both crappies have large mouths extending to below the eye, and thin lips—both suggestive of their piscivorous feeding habits. Crappies are typically 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) long.
Native to most of the eastern half of the U.S.A., the black crappie has stocked throughout been so extensively transplanted that today it almost entirely blankets the U.S. and reaches up into southern Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec in Canada. It is only noticeably scarce in a swathe of the midwest stretching from western Texas up through Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and western Montana, and even these states have black crappies either along their borders or in limited internal areas.
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 such as submerged timber or aquatic vegetation, as well as sand or mud bottoms like those found in lakes, ponds, streams, and sloughs.
Crappies feed early in the morning and from about midnight until approximately 2am. Individuals smaller than about 16 cm in length eat plankton and minuscule crustaceans, while larger individuals feed on small fishes (like shad), as well as minnows. Adult black crappie feed on fewer fish than white crappie do; instead they consume a larger volume of insects and crustaceans. According to scientific studies carried out in California, mysid shrimp, Neomysis awatschensis, as well as amphipods, and Corophium, were the most commonly eaten by all sizes of black crappie. Although this diet is popular among black crappies in general, their diet may significantly change based on habitat, availability of food, and other biotic factors such as amount of resource competition. The same study also showed that young, small crappie tend to feed on small aquatic invertebrate animals and changed to a fish-filled diet as they matured to adulthood. Its diet, as an adult, tends to be less dominated by other fish than that of the white crappie.
The breeding season varies by location, due to the species' great range. Breeding temperature is 14‒20°C (58‒68°F) and spawning occurs in spring and early summer. Spawning occurs in a nest built by the male. Males use their bodies and tails to sweep out an area of sand or mud in shallow water (between one and six feet deep) usually near a shoreline and vegetation to create a nest. Black crappies appear to nest in the most protected areas (such as places with woody debris or live vegetation) possible.
Although minnows are the number-one bait, black crappies will also strike small spinners, jigs and crankbaits. Fly fishermen have good success on wet flies and ice anglers catch good numbers of blacks on jigging lures.
Look for black crappies in shallow, mud-bottomed bays in early spring. These waters warm earliest, attracting baitfish which, in turn, draw crappies. A slip-bobber rig baited with a small minnow hooked through the back probably accounts for more crappies than any other rig or artificial lure.