Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Black Crappie

Black Crappie

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The natural history of the northwoods



  • Pomoxis, from the Greek, "sharp opercle (cheek)"
  • nigromaculatus, from the Latin, "black spotted"
  • Common name
  • Other common names include: Bream, Calico Bass, Crawpie, Freckle, Grass Bass, Mason Perch, Moonfish, Slab, Speckled Bass, Speckled Crappie, Speckled Perch, Specks, Strawberry Bass, marigane noire, sac-a-lait


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata,
    • Subphylum Vertebrata,
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Acanthopterygii,
        • Order Perciformes, the perch-like fishes
        • Suborder Percoidei
          • Family Centrarchidae, the Sunfishes
            • Genus Pomoxis, the Crappies


  • A large, deep-bodied sunfish
  • Length 8"-12"
  • Weight occasionally very large, up to 2-4 lbs
  • Coloration
    • back dark olive, metallic green to golden brown with silver or blue cast
    • sides silvery with green or blackish mottling
    • dorsal, tail, and anal fins strongly reticulated with black giving the appearance of a dark-colored fin with many whitish spots.
  • Body
    • "hump-backed", deep-bodied, slab-sided, somewhat deeper in proportion to its length
    • dorsal fin of 7-8 spines
    • spiny dorsal and soft dorsal fins broadly connected without being notched
    • length of dorsal fin base equals distance from eye to front of dorsal fin
    • anal fin nearly as long and as large as dorsal fin, with 6 spines
    • complete lateral line of 36-44 scales
  • Head
    • large mouth
    • upper jaw extends well past middle of eye when mouth is closed
  • Lifespan 8-10 years.


  • Identifiable as a sunfish from its body shape and size.
  • Distinguished from other sunfish by
    • connected dorsal fins without notch
    • dorsal fin of 7-8 spines
    • large anal fin, nearly as large as dorsal, of 6 spines
  • Similar White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis) does not occur in the North Country.


  • Southern Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, south through eastern and midwestern US to Gulf Coast. Absent from Atlantic coast.
  • Near the northern edge of its range in the BWCA.


  • Clear waters of large streams and medium-sized lakes, and aquatic vegetation over bottom of sand, muck, or aquatic debris. Intolerant of turbid waters.
  • Inhabits heavily vegetated, shallow waters in spring, moving in summer to roam or suspend over deep water.


  • Initial diet zooplankton, supplemented with insects toward the end of first year.
  • Insects and their larvae remain an important food item throughout life, but feeds on small fish and minnows from second.
  • Adults continue to feed on plankton but usually eat plenty of small fish. Large adults are mostly piscivorous, and efficient predators of small fish.
  • May compete with Walleye to some degree because of similar habits. Both travel open water in schools, feeding on similar foods at night, dawn, and dusk.


  • U.S. Record: 6 lb. 0 oz, from the Westwego Canal, LA (11/28/89)
  • Minnesota Record: 5lbs, 0oz, from the Vermilion River (Dakota County)


  • Considered an excellent game fish when taken on light tackle.
  • Perhaps Minnesota's second most commonly caught game fish, behind the Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus).
  • Flesh is flaky, white, and considered very tasty.


  • Spawns in May and June, in 3'-8' of water, with water temperatures 58 º-64 º F.
  • Male sweeps out a nest in sand or fine gravel in colony. Female lays 20,000 to 60,000 eggs, occasionally up to 150,000. Male guards nest and defends young until they start to feed.
  • Young grow to 2"-3" in first year and mature during second or third year.



Boreal border

Last updated on 13 November 1999