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The white crappie or papermouth is a laterally compressed, deep-bodied fish with relatively large dorsal and anal fins. The completely joined dorsal fin contains five to six spines and 14 or 15 rays. The anal fin is slightly larger than the dorsal fin and has five to seven spines and 16 to 18 rays. The distance from the rear margin of the eye to the dorsal fin origin is usually longer than the length of the dorsal fin base. The back and upper sides are light gray to green, the lower sides are silvery, and the venter is white. Eight to 10 vertical, dark gray reticulated bars occur along the sides, with gray mottling on the venter and between the lateral bars. Dark margins occur on numerous scales in the nape and breast region, particularly during the spawning season. The dorsal, caudal, and anal fins contain several alternating light and dark bands. See Rafinesque (1818c) for original description.
The biology of black crappie is very similar to that of white crappie. Growth in terms of weight is very similar between the two species. White crappie tend to have higher growth rates in terms of length, but black crappie are more robust in body construction. Black crappie adults feed on fewer fish, and more insects and crustaceans, than do white crappie.
Like other members of the sunfish family, crappie are nest builders. They are similar to bluegills in that they tend to nest in relatively large "beds", and they have very high reproductive potential which often leads to overpopulation and stunting in small lakes and impoundments. White crappie nest in the spring, generally when water temperatures reach 65°F to 70°F. However, spawning activity has been observed at temperatures as low as 56°F. Fry hatch in three to five days, but remain attached to nest substrate by an adhesive substance from the egg for a few more days. Just before leaving the nest, fry free themselves by vigorous swimming actions. Once free, they begin feeding on microscopic animals. Although fry do not appear to school, fingerlings do. Schools with large numbers of individuals are often found in the middle of lakes.
Typically, white crappie grow three to five inches in length the first year, and reach seven to eight inches during the second year. Maturity is usually reached in two to three years. Adults feed on small fish and insects.
12 to 20 inches (300 to 508 mm).
Typically, minnows are the preferred bait, often producing monumental results when an aggregation is located, usually around submerged trees, boat docks, or other submerged structures. White crappie in excess of 4.5 pounds have been landed in Texas waters.
The native range of white crappie included the area west of the Appalachian Mountains north to southern Ontario and south to the Gulf of Mexico. The range extended west to Minnesota and South Dakota in the north, and to northeastern Mexico in the south. Today the range extends east to the Atlantic coast, and west to include California and portions of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and North Dakota. White crappie are native to the eastern two-thirds of Texas, but the species can now be found statewide except for the upper portions of the Rio Grande and Pecos drainages.