Black crappie
Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Lesueur, 1829)

member of the Sunfish Family (Centrarchidae)


photo by Konrad Schmidt













What's In a Name?
Black crappie: "black" refers to the dark spotting on the body and "crappie" is of unknown origin

Pomoxi (Poe-mox´-iss) means "sharp opercle" in Greek
nigromaculatus (nee´-grow-mack´´-you-lah´-tus) means "black spotted" in Latin


    Where Do They Live?
Black crappies occur in all major drainages of Minnesota. They are most abundant in the central portion of the state and least abundant in the deep, rocky lakes of the Arrowhead region (northeastern Minnesota). Black crappies inhabit moderate to large streams, large river backwaters, and small to medium sized lakes. They prefer clear, calm, warm water with lots of vegetation.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
This well-liked sportfish can often reach 250-300 mm (10-12 in) and about 0.5-0.9 kg (1-2 lbs). The Minnesota record weighed 2.27 kg (5 lbs). It was caught in the Vermillion River in 1970. Black crappies can live for 7-9 years, but most of those caught by anglers are 3-4 years old.

    What Do They Eat?
Black crappies are carnivores (animal eaters). As larvae, they consume mostly copepods and waterfleas, but they begin to include tiny insect larvae when they get to be about 25 mm (1 in) long. As they grow they add more and larger insect larvae, amphipods, and finally small fishes. Full-grown black crappies continue to consume insect larvae, but minnows, small bluegill, and small yellow perch become their major prey.

What Eats Them?
Newly hatched and young-of-the-year black crappies are common prey for yellow perch, walleyes, largemouth bass, and northern pike. Older crappies are eaten mainly by big largemouth bass, northern pike, and muskies. Sometimes crappies are eaten by predatory birds, such as great blue herons, American mergansers, and even kingfishers. Otters and minks also have been seen snatching crappies through the winter ice. Since the crappie is a favorite panfish to many anglers, humans harvest large numbers of this species.


How Do They Reproduce?
Black crappies spawn in May and June in Minnesota, when the water temperature goes above 15° C (59° F). Males sweep out circular nests (about 25-30 cm across) usually in areas of fine gravel, sand, or even mud. They usually choose a spot next to a submerged plant in water 0.3-2 m (1-6 ft) deep. Black crappies normally are 3 years old when they first spawn, but some mature at 2 years old. Females produce enormous numbers of eggs-- 3,000 to 188,000, depending on their size. Each male and female will spawn with several partners, and the male will guard the nest until the eggs are hatched and the larvae are eating on their own.

Eggs (embryos actually) hatch in about a week or so, but the embryos stay in the nest for several more days while developing a functional mouth and fin rays. They then swim up into the water column and begin feeding.


Conservation and Management
Both black and white crappies are much sought after panfish. More anglers catch black crappies than white because black crappies are more abundant and widespread. Crappies are notorious for their short feeding frenzies, often in the early morning or late evening. At these times, anglers can get a bite almost as fast as they can rebait their hooks.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002