Crappie and bluegill share many of the same waters and other similarities. For this reason many people wonder about their differences or if they’re the same. Let’s answer, are bluegills the same as crappies?
Bluegills and crappie are not the same. Although from the same family they are different species of fish.White crappie are P. annularis species, black crappie are P. nigromaculatus species and bluegill are L. macrochirus species. Bluegill have a rounder and more colorful body than crappies.
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.
Crappie vs Bluegill: Habitats, Size, Weight, Appearance?
How can you tell if it’s a crappie or bluegill?
The easiest way to tell the difference between a crappie and a bluegill is by their colors and body shape. Bluegill has a blue head and chin and a yellow belly. Crappies are silvery with dark markings. Bluegill have a rounder body shape than the elongated shape of the crappie.
Another easy way to tell the difference between a crappie and bluegill is by their dorsal fin. White crappie’s dorsal fin has 5-6 spines, black crappie has 7-8 spines and bluegill has 6-13 spines and 11-12 soft rays.
Bluegill has a shorter, small mouth than white or black crappie. The crappie head is larger than the bluegill which is more streamlined with the body.
Crappie and Bluegill 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
Bluegill are from:
- Family: Centrarchidae
- Genus: Lepomis
- Species: L. macrochirus
- Common nicknames: Bream, brim, sunny, perch.
Crappie and Bluegill Habitats
- White crappies are native to the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and the Mississippi River basins from Canada, New York, South Dakota and Texas.
- They can be found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
- White crappie can be found in murky waters.
- Black crappies are native to Canada, eastern and the western United States.
- Black crappies are found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
- Black crappie prefer clear water over murky.
- Bluegill are native to North America and can be found from Canada to northern Mexico.
- Bluegill are found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
- Bluegill like to hide under fallen logs, piers or in weeds.
Crappie and Bluegill 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 brow.
- Bluegills have an olive green upper body and light yellowish to orange belly. The sides of the head and chin are iridescence blue or purple. Bluegill have dark vertical bands on its sides. A breeding male will have more orange than yellow on the belly.
Crappie and Bluegill Appearance
- White crappie has one dorsal fin with 5-6 spines.
- Black crappie has one dorsal fin with 7-8 spines.
- Bluegill has one dorsal fin with 6-13 spines and 11-12 rays.
- 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.
- The bluegill mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend past the eye line.
- The scales on a white crappie are similar across the body.
- The scales on a black crappie are similar across the body.
- The scales on a bluegill are similar shaped size across the body and head.
Crappie and Bluegill Size and Weight
- White crappies average 9-10 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.
- Bluegill average 6-7″ long and weighs less than 2 pounds.
Check out all the differences between crappie and bass in my article, Crappie vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.
White crappie consume the following:
- Small fish
Black crappie consume the following:
- Small fish
Bluegill consume the following:
- Small crustaceans
- Insect larvae
Crappie and Bluegill: Tastes and Textures
One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does crappie taste like bluegill?
Crappie has a milder taste than bluegill which is mild to sweet. Crappie taste less fishier than bluegill. Bluegill has a firmer texture than crappie which is softer and smoother. Crappie is more delicate and flakey than bluegill.
What does crappie taste like? White and black crappie have a similar mild taste. Crappie does not have a sweet or fishy flavor. The texture is soft, smooth and flakey.
What does bluegill taste like? Bluegill has a mild to sweet taste. The texture is firm and flakey.
I polled many of my readers and members of food groups I belong to. The following are the results of my poll which consisted of 100 people. I asked which fish tasted better, crappie or bluegill?
- 78% preferred the taste of bluegill.
- 22% preferred the taste of crappie.
Check out how white crappie compared to white perch in my article, White Crappie vs White Perch: Are They The Same? We Compare.
Crappie and Bluegill Substitutions
When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for. If you have some bluegill or crappie, you may ask, can I substitute bluegill for crappie?
Bluegill can substitute for crappie although its flavor is slightly stronger than crappie. Bluegill has a firmer texture allowing it to be in many crappie recipes and more cooking methods than crappie. They both can be cooked using similar methods like baking, broiling, steaming and frying.
One thing to remember when choosing between bluegill and crappie is the size of the fillet. Most of the time the crappie fillet is larger or is easier to fillet if you have a whole fish.
What is a good substitute for crappie? The best crappie fish substitutes include the following:
- Lake herring
- White crappie
- Black crappie
- Lake herring
How To Cook Crappie
The most popular ways to cook white crappie are:
- Pan frying
- Deep frying
Since the texture of crappie is delicate, almost like crabmeat, they make a good substitute for some crab recipes like crab cakes.
How To Cook Bluegill
The most popular ways to cook bluegill are:
- Deep frying
- Pan frying/Stir fry
- Lemon juice
- Cajun seasoning
- Smoked paprika
- Beer batter
- Parmesan cheese
- Bread crumbs
- Black pepper
- Tarter sauce
- Cayenne pepper
Crappie and Bluegill 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 11. This is especially important for pregnant women, developing children and young infants.
They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, does bluegill or crappie have more mercury?
Bluegill and crappie have similar levels of mercury. Crappie and bluegill are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. The FDA recommends eating no more than 2 servings per week from the fish listed as best choices.
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 12.
How Much Crappie and Bluegill Costs
The costs for crappie or bluegill will vary depending on how the fish are caught. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label to see if it is wild-caught or farm raised. Therefore, which is more expensive, crappie or bluegill?
Bluegill is more expensive than crappie. The average cost for wild crappie fillets is $22 per pound. The average cost for wild bluegill fillets is $25.36 per pound.
I checked online at Walleye Direct and found the following prices:
- Wild, crappie fillets
- $22.00 per pound
- Wild, bluegill fillets
- $25.36 per pound
For stocking ponds, Pond King has the following price per fish:
- Black crappie – $1.00 per 3-4″ fish
- Bluegill – $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
Crappie and Bluegill Nutritional Values
The following are nutrients per 4 ounces of raw crappie and bluegill:
|Nutrient||Bluegill, raw (4 Ounces)||Crappie, raw (4 Ounces)|
|Fat||0.8 g||1.3 g|
|Saturated Fat||0.5 g||0.9 g|
|Cholesterol||97 mg||80 mg|
|Protein||22 g||25 g|
|Sodium||82 mg||49 mg|
|Omega-3||0.16 g||0.29 g|
|B-6||0.1 mg||0.1 mg|
|B-12||2.0 mcg||2.1 mcg|
|Thiamin||0.10 mg||0.07 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.10 mg||0.08 mg|
|B5||0.7 mg||0.8 mg|
|Iron||1.7 mg||0.9 mg|
|Niacin||1.4 mg||1.7 mg|
|Folate||17.0 mcg||6.3 mcg|
|Potassium||395 mg||357 mg|
|Magnesium||34 mg||39 mg|
|Phosphorus||203 mg||259 mg|
|Calcium||90.4 mg||85.8 mg|
|Zinc||1.6 mg||0.5 mg|
|Selenium||14.2 mcg||13.2 mcg|
Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, is bluegill or crappie healthier?
Crappie is healthier than bluegill due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein and B vitamins. Crappie contains 85% more heart healthy omega-3s and more B12, B5, B3, magnesium and phosphorus than bluegill.
Bluegill also contains a good number of vitamins and minerals. Bluegill provides more thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and selenium.
The extra omega-3 fatty acids is what separates the two fish and gives crappie the advantage. Keep reading the next section to find out why omega-3 fatty acids are important for your health.
Crappie and Bluegill Health Benefits
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids contained in crappie and bluegill are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:
- Keeping bad cholesterol low.
- Keeping good cholesterol high.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Reducing plaque build-up.
- 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 16.
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.
The B vitamins provided by crappie and bluegill include B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) B6, B12 and B5. B vitamins help support the following:
- Energy levels.
- Red blood cells.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Nerve function.
- Brain function.
Magnesium calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 17.
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 18.
Magnesium provided by bluegill and 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.
Bluegill provides 90.4 mg of calcium and crappie 85.8 mg per four ounces. 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 19.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Build and maintain strong bones.
- Muscles need calcium to function properly.
- Improve nerve function.
Potassium provided by bluefish and crappie helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 20.
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 21.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 22.
There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces of bluegill. Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 23 show selenium may help to protect the following:
- Cognitive issues
- Heart disease
- The immune system
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.
Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!
- Wikipedia: Crappie
- Wikipedia: White crappie
- Wikipedia: Black crappie
- Florida Museum: Black Crappie
- Texas Parks & Wildlife: Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
- UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: White Crappie
- Wikipedia: Bluegill
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Bluegill
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Bluegill
- Delaware.gov: Bluegill
- FDA: Advice about Eating Fish
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake
- The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020
- Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw
- USDA FoodData Central: Crappie
- National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Institutes of Health: Selenium