White Crappie vs Black Crappie – What Is The Difference

By Get Fishing •  Published: 02/03/23 •  6 min read

The Crappie is a freshwater fish native to North America. Their unique name is derived from the French Canadian word “crapet,” an umbrella term for members of the Sunfish family. What makes this species stand out even more is that there are two subspecies within it; the White Crappie vs Black Crappie. 

White crappie vs black crappie

Is a White Crappie the Same as a Black Crappie?

No, although these fish are both Crappies, they are genetically related but not the same fish. The White Crappie (Poxomis annularis) and Black Crappie (Poxomis nigromaculatus) share some of the same characteristics, but are separate fish. 

What’s the Difference Between White Crappie vs Black Crappie? 

Aside from the most obvious physical feature – coloration – these fish have other physical features that you can use to tell them apart. They also have different habitat preferences, meaning you’re more likely to catch a White Crappie in some areas than you are a Black Crappie. 

What is a White Crappie? 

white crappie

The White Crappie is a subspecies of the Crappie, also known as the goldring or silver perch. While White Crappie have a similar body design to Black Crappies, they’re very obviously different when it comes to coloration. Of the two types, the White Crappie has a more narrow distribution, as we’ll see later on.

What is a Black Crappie? 

black crappie

The Black Crappie is also native to North America, but has been widely distributed elsewhere due to its popularity. Like the White Crappie, the Black Crappie belongs to the Sunfish family – meaning it has spiked fins. 

How to Tell the Difference Black Crappie vs White Crappie

If you’re lucky enough to be holding both a White and Black Crappie, it’s immediately noticeable that they are not the same fish. Aside from their coloration, they are also shaped slightly differently. Depending on where you’re fishing, you may be more likely to catch one or the other.

how to tell the difference from a white crappie and a black crappie

White Crappie vs Black Crappie Shape Differences

A quick glance will make it hard to tell these two apart if you’re just looking at the shape of the body. Crappie are very similar in shape, however the White Crappie has more of a humped back. 

White Crappie vs Black Crappie Dorsal Spines

Dorsal spines are a quick and easy way to tell what you’ve got on the line. Black Crappie have 7-8 dorsal spines along their backs; White Crappie have only 5-6. White Crappies’ dorsal fins also start further back on their bodies, and they’re a bit more elongated.   

White Crappie vs Black Crappie Coloration Differences

This is the most obvious difference between the two fish. The White Crappie has dark vertical bars running vertically down their silver body, with green or brown shading along the back. The belly is white. 

Black Crappie are stunningly dark in color, truly earning the latin name nigromaculatus, which means ‘“black spotted.” Black Crappie are technically a dark, silver gray in color with mottled black splotches running down their body. Around the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins you can easily find dark spots. 

Where Can You Find Black Crappie? 

It’s hard to know what the Black Crappie’s native range is because they’re so widely stocked. They’ve been introduced throughout most of North America, but experts have guessed that their native range is likely the same as the White Crappie.

In modern times, the Black Crappie can be found in 48 of the 50 states and throughout areas of Canada. This species has also been introduced to Mexico and Panama.  

Black Crappie Fishing Tips

male black crappie with spawning colors

If you’re looking to catch Crappie, pay attention to both bait and habitat. All Crappie prefer feeding in the early morning. They’ll eat small fish, crustaceans, insects and insect larvae. Black Crappie usually eat less fish than White Crappie. Because of their wide range, the Black Crappie may also be interested in whatever prey is available in the area you’re fishing – so don’t be shy to try some experimental lures and live bait.

Most importantly, Black Crappie prefer calm, clear water with shady areas where they can hang out. These fish will hide in vegetation, so make sure your gear can handle punching through some weeds and coming out untangled.  

Where Can You Find White Crappie? 

The White Crappie is native to the Mississippi, Hudson Bay and Great Lakes basins along the eastern side of the US. They’ve been introduced outside of their native range, however they don’t seem to be as popular as their cousins. 

White Crappie Fishing Tips

angler holding a white crappie caught on a small jig head

Similar to Black Crappie, the best time to fish for White Crappie is very early in the morning. White Crappie feed on more fish than Black Crappie do, so try out some minnow-mimicking jigs. White Crappie are not ambush predators in the water; they search for prey only when they are stationary, meaning you’ll want to draw attention to your bait. Try flashers or brightly-colored soft plastics. White Crappie will also eat crayfish and other crustaceans. They’re hungriest June through October and slow down in the winter. 

White Crappie hang out in lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Unlike the Black Crappie, they don’t mind murky water. If you’re fishing a murky pond where both subspecies overlap, you’re more likely to catch White Crappie. This species will avoid fast-running water, but can be found in open water if it’s quiet and shallow. 


Whether you’re knocking the Sunfish roster off your list or fishing specifically for these two subspecies, the White and Black Crappie are beautiful fish that are fun to compare both in and out of the water. Understanding the differences between the two will go a long way in getting you the fish you’re aiming for – so brush up with this post before you head out. Happy fishing!

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