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Black crappie

Fishes of Wisconsin

Black crappie
Illustration: Virgil Beck


Common name: Black crappie

Scientific name: Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Pomoxis means "sharp opercle (cheek)"; nigromaculatus means "black spotted")

Distribution: The black crappie occurs in all three drainage basins in Wisconsin (Lake Michigan, Mississippi River, and Lake Superior). This glacial species is well distributed throughout the state, except in the streams of the driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin.

Spawning: In Wisconsin, the black crappie usually spawns in May and June; however, during a colder season, spawning may be delayed until July. Favorable spawning temperatures range from 64 to 68º F. The male sweeps out a nest in the sand or fine gravel and guards the nest and defends the young until they start to feed.

Angling: The black crappie is considered an excellent game fish when taken on light tackle. Extreme care must be taken in landing these fish because their mouths are very tender. Anglers specializing in catching black crappie know that to be successful the bait must be kept constantly moving. The best baits are small minnows, small maribou-covered jigs, plastic minnows, or small streamer flies cast along the outer edges of weed beds. The crappie lies in weed beds in deep water during the day and bites best in the early morning or toward evening. In summer, with the abundance of small fish for feed, they are more difficult to catch. Small minnows are used as bait in winter.