The Black Crappie is a freshwater fish found in North America, one of the two crappies. It is very similar to the White Crappie in size, shape, and habits, except that it is darker, with a pattern of black spots. The Black Crappie is a large sunfish, although not as big as the Largemouth Bass. It grows up to 16 inches long and can weigh five pounds, but they are usually much smaller.
Black Crappies are most accurately identified by the seven or eight spines on its dorsal fin (White Crappies have five or six dorsal spines). Black Crappies have a deep and laterally compressed body. They are usually silvery-gray to green in color and show irregular or mottled black splotches over the entire body. Black Crappies have rows of dark spots on their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. The dorsal and anal fins resemble each other in shape. Both crappies have large mouths extending to below the eye, and thin lips—both suggestive of their piscivorous feeding habits. Black Crappies are typically 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) long. The current all-tackle fishing world record for a Black Crappie is 2.25 kg (5 lbs. 0 oz.). The maximum length reported for a Black Crappie is 19.3 inches (49 cm) and the maximum published weight is just under 6 pounds (2,700 g).
Black Crappies are highly prized game fish. They may be caught on artificial lures and live bait. Small, light-colored feather jigs are among the popular lures in the Black Crappies angler's arsenal. These jigs may be cast and retrieved, fished with free-lined jigging motion over submerged structure, or fished beneath a bobber. Black Crappies may also be taken in deep water by trolling diving or sinking plugs. In the shallows, anglers catch many fish on small spinners, spoons, and other minnow-imitating baits. Drift Missouri minnows or grass shrimp below a float, with a #4 hook and small split shot. Depth is key, as Black Crappie school at the same level. When Black Crappie move inshore to spawn, a bright 1/16-oz. to 1/8-oz. jig or Hal-flies will produce. For anglers preferring live bait, the minnow is the overwhelming favorite. Minnows are generally captive bred and may be purchased from bait at appropriate sizes ranging from 1-4 inches (2.5-10.1 cm) in length. Live bait fishing methods include fishing the minnow under a bobber on a light, medium-sized hook. Minnows may also be fished in deeper water by slow trolling with or without a bobber. Whichever method is chosen, the angler must take care when setting the hook when Black Crappies fishing. Black Crappies have notoriously thin mouth membranes. With too strong of a hook set or too stiff a rod, the hook may tear through the thin membrane.
Black Crappie are native to the eastern half of North America, from southern Manitoba and Ontario in Canada south to Florida, and as far west as Nebraska. Black Crappie have been widely introduced to waters throughout North America and their range now includes nearly the entire continent, though they are found in greatest number the upper and lower Midwest, as well as the southeastern United States.