Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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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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