Common Names – speckled perch, specks, papermouth, bachelor perch, calico bass, strawberry bass, or white perch.
Description – The black crappie is a silvery-green to yellowish fish with large dorsal and anal fins of almost identical shape and size. The sides are marked with black blotches which become more intense towards the back. The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins also are marked with rows of dark spots. Crappies have compressed bodies, small heads and arched backs. It has a large mouth with an upper jaw extending under the eye.
Subspecies – There are no recognized subspecies. They are closely related to the white crappie that is found in Alabama and Georgia. However, the white crappie is not found in Florida.
Range – Found statewide except in the Florida Keys.
Habitat – Black crappies thrive in clear, natural lakes and reservoirs with moderate vegetation. They are also found in large slow-moving less turbid rivers, provided the water is not too murky. Crappies prefer water from 70 to 75 degrees but will tolerate water over 80 degrees. It is gregarious and often travels in schools.
Spawning Habits – Spawning occurs from February to April when water temperatures reach 62 to 65 degrees. They nest in colonies. Circular nest are fanned by males over gravel or soft-muddy bottoms and frequently around submerged vegetation in waters from three to eight feet deep. After spawning, males guard the eggs and fry. Females may produce between 11,000 and 188,000 eggs.
Feeding Habits – Primary food items are crustaceans, aquatic insects and small fishes. Adults mainly eat small fish, particularly open-water forage fish, like threadfin shad.
Age and Growth – Sexual maturity is reached in the second or third year, with few fish surviving beyond their fifth year in Florida waters. The oldest crappie aged in Florida, to date, has been 11 years old.
Sporting Quality – Black 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. As a sport fish, specific bag and size limit regulations apply, and you can register a qualifying catch as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “Big Catch” program.
Eating Quality – 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.
World Record – 4 pounds, 8 ounces, caught in Kerr Lake, Virginia, in 1981.State Record – 3 pounds, 13.25 ounces, caught in Lake Talquin, in 1992.
Information Courtesy MyFWC.com