Freshwater. Areas with clear to turbid
water and heavy structure. In river areas with slow or no current such as
sloughs, backwaters, and oxbows. Prefers 65-75 degrees F, but very tolerant of
extremes. Schools will often seek deep water structure (up to 60 feet) during
Spawning Habits: They spawn
in the spring, beginning when the water hits 62-68 degrees F . Male digs a
nest in coarse sand to marble sized gravel in 3-10 feet of water, then entices
females in to mate with him. Females leave only a small quantity of their eggs
in each male's nest (spreading their genes as far as possible).
Feeding Habits: Likes to eat
where it lives, usually associated with rocks, fallen trees, and overhung banks
in deeper water, or with nearby deep water, but is highly attracted to lights at
night. Small crappie feed largely on rotifers, insects, freshwater shrimp,
and nymphs, while larger crappie concentrate on small minnows and larger
insects. Due to mouth shape they concentrate on items above or even
with them in depth and will often follow behind a food item and slurp it into
their mouths. Feeds mostly at sunrise, sunset, and in the summer at night.
Notes: Very popular fish, often confused with
its close relative the Black Crappie, with which it can hybridize. It is also
the subject of numerous clubs and a tournament circuit, along with specialized
tackle and lures. Due to its insect and small minnow habit, it can be a fly rod
target at night or at sunset with #8 wooly worms, small poppers, and streamers,
especially if there is a nearby overhanging bush. More likely these crappie
will be schooled on fallen trees (especially old Christmas Trees) near rocks in
deeper water. In the big rivers, this fish will plentiful in the deeper, snag
infested, sloughs, and behind wing dams. It is far more tolerant of muddy water
and current than the black crappie, and does grow slightly bigger.
Fish: Crappie can be caught on artificial baits such as jigs, spoon,
spinners, slabs or flatfish.
bait is shiner minnows, small in size, red chub minnows or ghost minnows. Check
each lake for native minnows first before you choose your weapon of choice.
Know: Crappie will never go down to get a bait, they will only go up to eat
a bait. When you catch a Crappie, remember what depth it was at so you can keep
fishing at that depth to catch more crappie that may be in the school.
perch, specks, papermouth, bachelor perch, calico bass, strawberry bass, or
The black crappie is a silvery-green to yellowish fish with large dorsal and
anal fins of almost identical shape and size. The sides are marked with black
blotches which become more intense towards the back. The dorsal, anal, and
caudal fins also are marked with rows of dark spots. Crappies have compressed
bodies, small heads and arched backs. It has a large mouth with an upper jaw
extending under the eye.
There are no recognized subspecies. They are closely related
to the white crappie.
- Black crappies thrive in clear, natural lakes and reservoirs
with moderate vegetation. They are also found in large slow-moving less turbid
rivers, provided the water is not too murky. Crappies prefer water from 70 to 75
degrees but will tolerate water over 80 degrees. It is gregarious and often
travels in schools.
- Spawning occurs from February to April when water
temperatures reach 62 to 65 degrees. They nest in colonies. Circular nest are
fanned by males over gravel or soft-muddy bottoms and frequently around
submerged vegetation in waters from three to eight feet deep. After spawning,
males guard the eggs and fry. Females may produce between 11,000 and 188,000
- Primary food items are crustaceans, aquatic insects and small
fishes. Adults mainly eat small fish, particularly open-water forage fish, like
Age and Growth
- Sexual maturity is reached in the second or third year, with
a few fish surviving beyond their fifth year. The oldest crappie aged to date,
has been 11 years old.
Sporting Quality -
crappies are excellent game fish and are highly regarded by bait fishermen and
artificial-lure anglers alike. They are easily caught during pre-spawning
periods when the fish are congregated in large schools. Trolling with small,
live minnows or a spinner-fly combination is very productive. They will also
strike subsurface flies, small spinners, jigs, and tiny crankbaits. Crappies
tend to suspend in mid-water, so you may have to experiment to find the right
- Considered to be excellent eating by many anglers. The meat
is prepared by rolling in cornmeal or dipping in pancake batter and deep frying,
and can also be baked or broiled.
- 4 pounds, 8 ounces, caught in Kerr Lake, Virginia, in 1981.
Common Names -
bream, sun perch, blue sunfish, copperhead, copperbelly, roach.
- Bluegills have small mouths and oval-shaped, almost
rounded, bodies. Body coloration is highly variable with size, sex, spawning,
water color, bottom type, and amount of cover. In general, they are somewhat
lavender and bronze with about six dark bars on their sides. Males tend to have
a copper-colored bar over the top of the head behind the eyes. The breast is
silver to slightly blue most of the year, with some yellow or orange during
spawning season. Females are generally lighter colored than males. Two
distinctive characteristics are the prominent black spot on the rear edge of the
gill-cover and a black spot at the base of the posterior portion of the dorsal
Habitat - Bluegills prefer
the quiet, weedy waters where they can hide and feed. They inhabit lakes and
ponds, slow-flowing rivers and streams with sand, mud, or gravel bottoms, near
Spawning Habits - Bluegills
are well known for "bedding" in large groups, with their circular beds touching
one another. Bedding occurs in water two to six feet deep over sand, shell or
gravel, and often among plant roots when the bottom is soft. Spawning occurs
from April through October with the peak in May and June, when water temperature
rises to about 78-80 degrees. A female may lay 2,000 to 63,000 eggs, which hatch
30 to 35 hours after fertilization.
Feeding Habits - Insects,
insect larvae and crustaceans are the dominant foods of bluegills, with
vegetation, fish eggs, small fish, mollusks, and snails being of secondary
importance, although they may dominate their diet during certain times of the
Age and Growth - A
one-year-old fish may be four inches long. Spawning may occur the first year.
Bluegills can live up to 11 years, but most are less than 7 years old. The rate
of growth varies considerably in different bodies of water.
Sporting Qualities -
Because of its willingness to take a variety of natural baits (e.g., crickets,
grass shrimp, worms) and artificial lures (e.g., small spinners or popping bugs)
during the entire year, its gameness when hooked, and its excellent food
qualities, the bluegill is one of the more important sport fish in the eastern
Eating Quality - Excellent;
the flesh is white, flaky, firm and sweet. They are generally rolled in cornmeal
or dipped in pancake batter before frying. Many rank the bluegill as the most
delicious of all freshwater fish.
World Record - 4 pounds, 12
ounces, caught in Ketona Lake, Alabama, in 1950.