The Original Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley Site Since 1996


Lake Barkley & Kentucky Lake Fish Species - Black Crappie

Black Crappie
(Pomoxis nigromaculatus)

KY State Record- 4 lbs, 14 oz.
TN State Record- 4 lbs. 4 oz.
Black Crappie
Lake Barkley & Kentucky Lake waters are home to white and black crappies, which are a part of the sunfish family. Because they are good to eat, crappies are a favorite fish among anglers.

Common Names:
speckled perch, calico bass, papermouth

With a compressed body, small head and arched back, the black crappie is silvery-green to yellowish, with large dorsal and anal fins of almost identical shape and size. It has a large mouth with an upper jaw extending under the eye. It has many dark spots on its sides and fins, which become more mottled toward the back. To differentiate between a black crappie and a white crappie, count the dorsal spines. The black crappie has seven to eight dorsal spines, while the white crappie has only five to six.

Habitats and Habits:

Black crappie thrive in clear ponds, natural lakes and reservoirs with moderate vegetation. Young black crappie prey on insects, plankton and larval fishes. Adult black crappie eat mainly fish, but they will also eat aquatic organisms and terrestrial insects.

SPORTING QUALITIES - Crappies are excellent game fish and are highly regarded by bait fishermen and artificial-lure anglers alike. They are easily caught during prespawning periods when the fish are congregated in large schools. Trolling with small, live minnows or a spinner-fly combination is very productive. They will also strike subsurface flies, small spinners, jigs, and tiny crankbaits. Crappies tend to suspend in midwater, so you may have to experiment to find the right depth.

Fishing Techniques:

Effective bait and lures are small jigs, minnows, silver spoons, flies and spinners fished along shorelines, around submerged brush piles and near fallen trees. Fishing vertically is effective when black crappie are deep enough to tolerate a boat directly overhead. Drifting or trolling with jigs works well when crappie are roaming open waters. To attract black crappie, anglers will often sink fish hides or “hurdles” consisting of Christmas trees and other woody debris.

EATING QUALITIES - Considered to be excellent eating by many anglers. The meat is prepared by rolling in cornmeal or dipping in pancake batter and deep frying, and can also be baked or broiled.

Fun facts
In the spring, both crappie species move to shallow water to mate, giving anglers a good chance to catch them. Some anglers think the crappie is the best-tasting fish that swims.