Black Crappie vs White Crappie – What’s The Difference?

Black and white crappie share many of the same waters and similarities. For this reason many people wonder about their differences, if any. Let’s answer, what is the difference between black crappie and white crappie?

Black crappie and white crappie are two different species of fish although they are from the same family and genus. Black crappie grows slightly larger and weighs more. White crappie prefers murky water. Black crappie prefers clearer water. Black crappie is found more on the eastern coast of the U.S. than white crappie.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, size, weight and discuss their nutritional benefits.

Black Crappie vs White Crappie: Habitats, Size, Weight, Appearance?

How can you tell the difference?

To tell the difference between a black and white crappie is to check their body markings, dorsal fins and their mouths. White crappie has dark vertical bars, black crappie has dark spots. White crappie has 5-6 spines on the dorsal fin. Black crappie has 7 to 8. Black crappie has an upward slope to their mouth which white crappie doesn’t have.

photo comparison of white crappie and black crappie
Black crappie above white crappie below

Another way to tell the difference is the length of their body. Black crappie’s body shape is shorter and stubbier than white crappie and weighs slightly more.

Another difference is the length from the center of the eye to the front of the dorsal fin. The black crappie distance from the center of the eye to the start of the dorsal fin equals the length of the dorsal fin.

The white crappie distance from the center of the eye to the start of the dorsal fin is longer than the base of the dorsal fin.

Crappie Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

White crappie are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Pomoxis
  • Species: P. annularis
  • Common nicknames: Goldring, silver perch, crappie

Black crappie are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Pomoxis
  • Species: P. nigromaculatus
  • Common nicknames: Crappie

White crappie and black crappie are from the same family and genus but are different species.  The following are some other crappie species.

Magnolia Crappie

Magnolia crappie is a hybrid which is sterile. They can be identified by the dark racing stripe running from their nose to the dorsal fin. The crappie distribution have been stocked into small bodies of water.

Golden Crappie

A golden crappie is extremely rare. Not much is known about it. They have a golden color with some silver.

Blacknosed Crappie

A black nosed crappie is another hybrid. Their crappie size is a little larger than the others.

Crappie Habitats and Where to Find

White Crappie

  • Native to the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and the Mississippi River basins from Canada, New York, South Dakota and Texas.
  • When fishing they can be found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
  • Also, they can be found in murky waters.

Crappie Black

  • Native to Canada, eastern and the western United States.
  • When fishing they can be found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
  • They prefer clear water over murky.

Black crappie prefer clear water and typically avoid muddy and turbid waters. White crappie are found more in muddy waters but may frequent the clear water also. White crappie prefers the open water while black crappie likes having vegetation to hide in.

Even though both crappies have their own preferences, you can find them in the same water, lakes, rivers, streams, reservoirs and ponds. Black crappie can be found more along the eastern coastline of the United States where white crappie is more scarce.

Colors

  • White crappies have a silvery color with dark vertical bars along the body. The back is greenish to brown.
  • Black crappies have a silvery color with dark splotches along the body. The back is greenish to brown.

White crappies are sometimes lighter in color and appear less dark but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the white and black crappie have a similar darkness to their bodies.

black crappie and white crappie photo comparison
Black crappie and white crappie below

Crappie Appearance

Dorsal Fins

  • White crappie has one dorsal fin with 5-6 spines.
  • Black crappie has one dorsal fin with 7-8 spines.

The dorsal fin of the black crappie is located closer to the head than a white crappie. The dorsal fin of the white crappie is closer to the tail fin than the black crappie.

Mouth

  • The white crappie jaw does not extend past the eye line. The mouth does not have an upward shape.
  • The black crappie jaw does not extend past the eye line. The mouth has an upward curve or shape.

Scales

  • The scales on both are similar across the body.

Body Shape

  • White crappie has a short stubby body. The distance from the center of the eye to the front of the dorsal fin is longer than the length of the dorsal fin.
  • Black crappie has a short, stubby, rounder body, shorter than a white crappie. The distance from the center of the eye to the front of the dorsal fin equals the length of the dorsal fin.

Crappie Size and Weight

  • White crappies average 9-12 inches long and weigh between 1/2 pound to 1.5 pounds.
  • Black crappies average 8-10 inches long and weigh 3/4 pound to 2 pounds.

Age

  • White crappie live 2-7 years.
  • Black crappie live 2-7 years.

Crappie Diet

White crappie consume the following:

  • Plankton
  • Crustaceans
  • Small fish
  • Insects

Black crappie consume the following:

  • Plankton
  • Crustaceans
  • Small fish
  • Insects

Fishing

Crappie can be caught year round. Crappie fishing down in Florida from late fall, through March, to early spring is ideal. Fishing methods don’t have to change between the white or black types.

Crappies aren’t heavy so a four pound test will be enough. They have tender mouths easily damaged by some hook sets. Your gear should have a bit of give to it.

Crappies have big mouths for a panfish so hook size matters. Use nothing smaller than a #6. Get yourself into the wildlife and have fun fishing.

Crappie fishing tips and watching them in their habitat.

Spawning

Both white and black crappie spawn approximately March through May. Depending on the location, black may spawn a little earlier. This matters when fishing.

If you’re curious how crappie compared to bass, check out my article Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Black Crappie and White Crappie: Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish or fishing is its taste. When comparing the two panfish, black crappie vs white crappie, which one tastes better?

White crappie and black crappie have a similar taste and one isn’t better than the other. They have a mild taste which is not sweet or fishy. Both of their textures are soft, smooth and flakey. The black crappie fillet may be more meatier due to its slightly larger size. 

They both have very tender white meat which will practically melt in your mouth. To conduct original research on taste, I polled my clients, readers and members of food groups.

I asked, which crappie tastes better?

  • 53% said they preferred white crappie.
  • 47% said they preferred black crappie.

I did more original research by setting up a blind taste test at my home. Both fish were cooked and seasoned the same way. Three out of four people chose the black crappie.

Crappie recipes.

Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish in a store or catch while fishing. If you have only one type, you may ask, can I substitute one for the other?

Black and white crappie can substitute for each other due to their similar tastes and textures. Both fish have a mild flavor and soft texture allowing each one to substitute for each other in any crappie recipe. They both can be cooked using similar methods like baking, broiling, pan frying and deep frying. 

The best white crappie fish substitutes, some are other panfish, include the following:

  • Cod
  • Tilapia
  • Bluegill
  • Lake herring
  • Pollock
  • Black crappie

The best black crappie fish substitutes include the following:

  • Cod
  • Tilapia
  • Bluegill
  • Lake herring
  • Pollock
  • White crappie

Mercury Levels

The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 1. This is especially important for young infants, developing children and pregnant women.

They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, which one has more mercury?

Black crappie and white crappie have similar levels of mercury. Both of them are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels.

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

These mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations especially if you’re fishing 2.

Preparing a crappie for cooking.
Preparing a crappie for cooking

Crappie Cost

The costs for crappie will vary depending on how the fish are caught fishing and where they are sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label. Therefore, which is more expensive?

Black crappie and white crappie are similar cost per pound. The average cost for fresh crappie fillet is $22 per pound. Wild, whole crappie fish is $10.45 per pound. Live black crappie for stocking ponds is $1 per 3-4 inch fish.

I conducted original research about costs by checking prices at various different stores.

First, I checked online at Walleye Direct and found the following prices:

  • Wild, crappie fillets
    • $22 per pound
  • Wild, whole black crappie
    • $10.45 per pound

For stocking ponds, Pond King has the following price per fish:

  • Black crappie – $1 per 3-4″ fish
Kevin Garce checking prices of catfish and seafood in his local supermarket.
Checking prices of catfish bass and seafood in my local market

Nutrition for Crappies

Crappie fish are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both crappie fish contain the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • B6
  • B12
  • B5
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

The following number of nutrients per four raw ounces of Crappie fish:

Nutrient Crappie, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 137
Fat 1.3 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 80 mg
Protein 25 g
Sodium 49 mg
Omega-3 0.29 g
B-6 0.1 mg
B-12 2.1 mcg
Thiamin 0.07 mg
Riboflavin 0.08 mg
B5 0.8 mg
Iron 0.9 mg
Niacin 1.7 mg
Folate 6.3 mcg
Potassium 357 mg
Magnesium 39 mg
Phosphorus 259 mg
Calcium 85.8 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg
Selenium 13.2 mcg

Nutrient Resources 3

Since crappies are difficult to locate in stores, I’ll consume either fish available to me for their nutrient content, taste and health benefits.

Black Crappie and White Crappie Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Reducing plaque build-up.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Lowering triglycerides.
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 4.

Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Omega-3 sources.
Omega 3 sources

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by crappie include B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5, B6, B9 (folate) and B12. B vitamins help support the following:

  • Red blood cells.
  • Energy levels.
  • Digestion.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Nerve function.
  • Brain function.

Calcium

Crappie provides 85.8 mg of calcium per four ounces. The calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 5.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Improve nerve function.
  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.

Magnesium

Crappie provides 39 mg of magnesium per four ounces. Magnesium calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. It has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 6.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 7.

Magnesium provided by crappie helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Selenium

There are 13.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces. Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 8 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system

Find out how bluegill compared in my crappie comparison article here.

Potassium

Black and white crappie provide 357 mg of potassium per four ounces. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 9.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 10.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 11.

Is white perch any different? Find out in my crappie article.

Phosphorus

Crappie provides 259 mg of phosphorus per four ounces. It has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

  • Promote teeth and bone strength.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Muscle contraction.
  • Help the body store and manage energy.
  • Help the kidneys remove waste.
  • Promote healthy nerve conduction.

Find out how rock bass compared in my crappie comparison article.

FAQs

Do white and black crappie crossbreed?

White and black crappie have crossbred forming a hybrid. The hybrid crappie rarely reaches maturity and has a shorter lifespan than white or black crappies. Factors enabling crossbreeding between crappies include limited spawning habitat, turbid water, overlapping spawning seasons and fluctuations in water levels.

Hybrid crappies breed much slower than white or black crappies. The next generation hybrid is often unsuccessful causing hybrid’s population to die out quicker.

If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

As a Certified Health Coach many of my clients ask me about sunfish. In addition to educating my Health Coaching clients about white and black crappie, I have researched, purchased and consumed both fish for 20 years prior to, during and after writing this article.

Additional Resources 12

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Bass vs Catfish – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Brown Trout vs Salmon – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare

Halibut vs Flounder – Is There A Difference? Let’s Compare

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  3. USDA FoodData Central: Crappie[]
  4. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  5. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  6. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  8. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  9. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  11. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  12. SRAC: Species Profile: Hybrid Crappie[]

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