Freshwater Fish - Species

Black crappie - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Black crappie

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)

The black crappie body is overall gray-green to bluish on the back that fades to a silvery side and belly. Black mottling is present on the sides of the body as well as the anal, dorsal and caudal fins. The mouth is large and extends to beneath the eye. Black crappies appear to have a "receding fin line," as the area in front of the dorsal fin is highly arched. The black crappie has 7-8 dorsal fin spines.

Range: Statewide

Average Length: 5.1 - 19.3 inches

Average Size: ½ to 1¼ pounds, approximate maximum size five-pounds

South Carolina State Record: 5 pounds (1957)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 10 years

Preferred Habitat

The two species of crappie are found in almost all waters with the exception of mountain streams. They are more abundant in large impoundments, natural lakes and backwaters.

White crappie are more tolerant of turbid conditions with the black crappie preferring clearer lakes.

Food Habits

  • Young crappie feed on invertebrates such as zooplankton and insects. At about 7 inches, fish become more prevalent in the diet.
  • In large impoundments, adult crappie feed on threadfin shad and small gizzard shad throughout the year, however, they will feed extensively on mayfly nymphs during the summer months.


  • As water temperatures approach 60° F, in late February and early May male black crappie build their nests on top of sand, gravel or mud in shallow water.
  • Nests range from 8 to 15 inches in diameter and are usually found in colonies, with as many as 30 nests found in a 9-square yard area.
  • Females deposit from 3,000 to 15,000 eggs per spawn, but may spawn with several different males. Large females have the potential to lay up to 150,000 eggs.
  • The fertilized eggs are guarded by the male until hatching after 2 to 3 days and guarding continues for an additional 3 to 4 days until fry leave the nest.


The black crappie is very similar to the white crappie, differing slightly only in some body characteristics, color patterns and habitat preference. In most impoundments, one species or the other will predominate. The crappie is one of the most popular sport fishes in South Carolina. It is relatively easy to locate and catch and it has a very good flavor.

Crappie are often found in large numbers around piers and brush. These loose aggregations are not really schools of fish but they can appear to come and go as they are fished out of a small area. The Department of Natural Resources constructs and marks brush piles designed to attract crappie as a service to anglers. These fish attractors do a good job of attracting crappie but fishing pressure can reduce the number of fish at the site for short periods of time.

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.