At first, you may find it a little confusing to tell the difference between a sunfish and a crappie when they are both a part of the same genus and even the same family. Given that there are differences between different types of sunfish, it is important to know about each family and the different sub-types that are found in the lakes, rivers, and streams where they live.
Both crappie and sunfish are quite popular in terms of game fish. This includes the overall family of sunfish along with the sub-type known as crappie which has enjoyed its considerable popularity across the US even if some people do not understand the differences.
Crappie vs Sunfish
There are two types of this fish, white crappie and black crappie, which are both members of the North American genus of sunfish. Both white and black crappie are considered gamefish and have slivery-white bodies with black speckles, though the black crappie has more black coloring which is how you can tell them apart. Otherwise, the differences between the white and black crappie are hardly worth mentioning.
Both type of crappie feed on smaller fish, which includes the young of their predators such as the walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge. In addition, they may also consume insects, crustaceans, and zooplankton if available. You’ll find crappie most active during the dawn or dusk hours as they move into feeding areas that may be in the open water. During the day, the fish are less active and tend to hang around near weed beds or along boulders and submerged logs or branches.
The sunfish is a species that includes crappie, but also other fish like the bluegill. Although part of the same genus and family called Centrarchidae, the bluegill member of the sunfish family tends to be smaller, weigh less, and have different coloring on its body and fins. You’ll find dark spots on the bluegill around the base of the dorsal fin while vertical strips or bars run up the side of the fish.
The bluegill does live in a manner similar to crappie in that it hunts smaller fish, can be found in streams, rivers, and lakes, and will spend the day in places similar to crappie as it hangs around weeds, plants, and other objects underwater. It feeds in the morning light and around dusk on smaller fish and insects.
The important differences between crappie and other sunfish such as the bluegill is that crappie tend to be somewhat larger and weigh a little more. Also, the coloring is considerably different as well which helps this fish stand out from the rest.
Otherwise, they are remarkable similar in terms of eating and mating habits with the males creating nests for the females to lay their eggs.
It is important to remember that both white and black crappie are part of the sunfish genus, but the other members of this family which include the bluegill are different. Keeping these differences in mind will help you better understand the sunfish family in general.