One of the most popular members of the sunfish family, crappie are native to the eastern United States but can be found across North America. Crappie are also excellent tasting fish which combined with their overall numbers makes them quite popular. Because the females will lay many thousands of eggs, scrambled crappie eggs are considered a delicacy in some areas.
For those who are fishing and want to distinguish the difference between female and male crappie, there are a few signs you can rely upon because both genders can be difficult to tell apart for most of the year.
How to Tell the Difference Between Female and Male Crappie
Outside of Spawning Season
Male and female crappie, both black and white versions, are virtually identical in terms of their visual appearance for most of the year outside of spawning season. Unfortunately, the size difference between male and female crappie is almost non-existent. They are both roughly the same size and weight, which means that just because one may be larger, that has nothing to do with their sex.
In fact, it is easier to tell apart from white crappie and black crappie thanks to the difference in the number of dorsal fins and in how the blotches are arranged on their bodies. Otherwise, both male and female crappie are virtually identical to the eye.
In the time of the spawning season begins, you should check the bellies of the crappie you catch or see swimming in their natural habitat. The belly of the males will change to black while the females will remain the same. This condition only lasts for a short time, so it will not be of much use outside of spawning season. However, it is something to look for when spawning season arrives.
Size of Belly
Just before the spawning season, the bellies of the females will appear larger and more bloated compared to the males. There is a good reason for this as the females may be carrying up to 100,000 eggs or more.
The number of eggs is so large which helps maintain the population of the crappie. Plus, many of the males and even the females will eat the young crappie after they are born. Thus, the large number of eggs is a must for the species to survive.
Guarding the Nest
If you come across a nest of crappie eggs, which can usually be found in calm water from two to five feet below the surface, the crappie that will be guarding the nest are the males.
The females will be the crappie that have left the nest and are swimming around in vegetation. While not always the perfect indicator, if you see nests of crappie eggs and find crappie away from them, they are most likely female.
Again, there are relatively few signs that indicate the difference between male and female crappie for most of the year outside of spawning season. However, just before and during spawning season, you should see indications of their sex based on their behavior and subtle physical indications.