Nature Bulletin No. 164 October 11, 1980
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
October is the month when a real fisherman, here in the central states,
has his final fling before putting away his rod and tackle box for the
winter. The crappies are biting, now that the waters have cooled, and
many fine strings of these handsome delicious panfish are being taken.
Crappies (pronounced "croppies") are shaped much like other sunfish
except that their bodies are thinner and their noses turn upward. There
are two kinds. The White Crapple has green markings arranged in 6
or 8 indistinct vertical bars on its silvery sides. The Black Crappie,
sometimes called "calico bass" is darker and has bluish-green spots
scattered at random on its sides. Both are dark green on top. Both
occasionally reach a weight of 2 pounds and their flesh is white, fairly
firm and excellently flavored.
The two kinds are about equally numerous in Illinois waters, with the
white crappie showing a preference for streams and the black more
abundant In lakes and ponds. The black crappie, however, is a
northern fish found as far north as Canada, while the natural range of
the white crappie extends south into the gulf states. Both have been
introduced into streams and lakes along the pacific coast and a number
of foreign countries.
Their food is entirely animal matter: aquatic insects, crayfish. water
fleas, small fish, etc. They seldom feed at the bottom but lurk in the
shadows of underwater weeds or sunken logs from which they dart out
to pounce on their prey. Like the black bass and other sunfish, the
males build the nest and guard the eggs and young. Spawning occurs
in late spring.
Crappies make up the larger part of the total hook-and-line catch in
many of the more important fishing waters of the Middle West. They
usually bite best in early spring and again in autumn, but only
moderately well in summer. The most successful bait is a small live
minnow on a medium-sized hook and a short line, although experts
find good sport using a flyrod and artificial bait. When crappies bite,
they bite like a house afire.
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Update: June 2012