Crappies are as species of freshwater fish belonging to the sunfish family Centrarchidae. There are two subspecies of crappie, black crappie and white crappie, both of which share many similarities along with some distinct characteristics.
As many anglers will testify, it’s often difficult to tell the difference between white and black crappie because they look so similar!
Plus, crappies are often mistaken for other members of the sunfish family, such as bluegill and rock bass, so understanding the anatomy of each type of crappie can make identifying the fish much easier.
Black crappies are similar in shape and size to white crappies, with only slight differences in certain body characteristics.
For example, the dorsal fin is located at the same position but black crappies have between 7-8 spines on their dorsal fin whereas white crappies have between 5-7 spines.
Additionally, the dorsal fin on a white crappie tends to start further back than a black crappie. The dorsal fin on a black crappie is often described as receding, as the dorsal fin arches higher towards the back.
The anal and caudal fins are mostly the same on each type of crappie, with the only differences being the colors present on each type.
Both have a large mouth that extends behind the eye, although the black crappie’s mouth is slightly smaller and angles upwards, resulting a snub-noise appearance. Black crappies also have a more pronounced forehead.
The shape of the body is slightly different for each type. For instance, black crappies are more compact than the lengthier white crappie. Black crappies average 4-8 inches in length while white crappie average 9-10 inches, although both can grow to be a good few inches longer.
Color and Markings
Perhaps the biggest differences between black and white crappie is the color and marking of each type.
One of the notable differences is the markings on each fish, with white crappie featuring 5-10 black vertical bars going across the length of their bodies, whereas black crappie has black markings scattered across their entire body.
As the name suggests, a white crappie has white coloring across the belly, with the remainder of the body being a silvery-gray color with brown or green spots towards the back of the body.
The main color of black crappies is similar to white crappie, with slivery-gray tones found throughout the body. The main difference is the speckled black spots found across the body, which make the slivery-gray coloration appear different on each type.
Black crappies also have more notable markings on each of their fins, with brown-black spots appearing on their doral, anal, and caudal fins.