Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

TWRA's Region 4 - East Tennessee

Reservoir Fisheries Management Program

Black Crappie - Pomoxis nigromaculatus

(This page was last updated - 07/09/2007)

Scientific name: Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Pomoxis "sharp opercle", nigromaculatus "black spotted")

Common names: black crappie, papermouth, speck

black crappie
A Norris Reservoir black crappie in breeding coloration - photo by Jim Negus

Species Overview

Black crappie is one of two species of crappie and are in the same taxonomic family as black bass and sunfish. They are found throughout much the United States in rivers, reservoirs, and lakes. Black crappie are uncommon in streams and less tolerant of turbidity than white crappie.

Blacknose black crappie (photo below) are considered the same species as black crappie. They have been used by the TWRA in many stocking efforts because the color variation allows biologist to track the success of stocking programs.

The Tennessee state angling record taken from Brown's Creek Lake in 1985 weighed 4 pounds and 4 ounces.


Black crappie have 7-8 dorsal fin spines compared to the 5-6 found in white crappie. They lack vertical bands of pigmentation and the length of the dorsal fin base is almost equal to the distance between the front of the dorsal fin to the center of the eye. They are more high bodied than white crappie. (see the white crappie page)


hybrid crappie
White, black, and hybrid Douglas Reservoir crappie - photo by John Hammonds


Young black crappie feed on plankton, microcrustacea, and aquatic insects. Small fish including small shad and minnows become important food items to adult crappie, but their long and abundant gill rakers allow them to continue to feed on plankton.

Adult crappie congregate in loose groups close to docks, blowdown trees, and other structures. They are commonly caught by anglers using live minnows, small grubs, or a "float and fly".

Crappie tend to over-populate and stunt when stocked into small impoundments and are not recommended for farm ponds.

Life Cycle

Spawning activity begins when water temperatures reach into the mid to upper 50's and between April and June in much of Tennessee. Males fan out areas in a variety of silt free sediments in shallow protected water. Nest are usually located close to various types of cover including submerged trees, logs, and vegetation.

Females can produce upwards of 160,000 eggs depending on her size and condition. Males guard the nests until the fry leave the area.


blacknose black crappie
A Norris Reservoir blacknose variety of a black crappie - photo by Jim Negus


The TWRA began stocking crappie into several reservoirs in earnest beginning in the early 1990s and crappie have now become a significant component of the state's stocking program.


Etnier, D. and W. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press.