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White crappie

White crappie


silvery body that shades to green or brown on the back; several (7-9) dark vertical bars on each side and whitish belly; "hump-backed" with 6 spines in the dorsal fin; seldom exceed 2 pounds


White crappie Distribution

statewide in lakes and large rivers


small fish, aquatic insects

State Record

"crappie" record 4 pounds, 9 ounces - Green Castle Lake, Marshall County, May 1981 - Ted Trowbridge, Marshalltown, Iowa

Expert Tip

crappie have delicate mouths, don't get carried away when you set the hook, a firm tug is plenty to set the hook


This sunfish species is common to abundant in most Iowa natural lakes, oxbows, man-made lakes, river impoundments and large rivers. White crappie tolerate turbid waters far better than black crappie and are more abundant in waters that carry heavy silt loads. It is abundant in all reaches of the Mississippi River. Some of the large interior streams have dense populations of white crappie. Many farm ponds have been stocked with white crappie, but their well-being in these small water bodies is seldom satisfactory.

The white crappie is a silvery, deep-bodied, slab-sided fish with a mouth that is proportional to body size. The upper jaw reaches well past the middle of the eye when the mouth is closed. The silvery body color shades to green or brown on the back. There are several, usually 7 to 9, vertical dark bars on the sides, and the belly is bright silver or white. The spiny dorsal and soft dorsal fins are broadly connected without a notch between. The anal fin is usually as long and as large as the dorsal fin and contains 6 spines. The dorsal fin has 6 spines and the length of its base is much less than the distance from the eye to the front of the dorsal fin. Breeding males become much darker and vividly marked during spawning; females retain their usual coloration and markings. The white crappie has a ski-slope shaped nasal structure, and the forward part of the back is strongly concave.

White crappie young feed mostly on copepods, cladocerans and other zooplankton during the first year of life. During late summer of their first year, young crappie commence feeding on aquatic insects, which remains an important food item for the rest of their life. Crappie start eating small fish in the second year, which become the staple food in adulthood.

White crappie spawning activity occurs in late April or early May when the water temperature reaches 56 degrees F. The male crappie fans out a depression in the bottom, usually in a cove or small embayment that is protected from wave action. Many nests may be located in a cove at depths ranging from 1 to 20 feet but usually 3 to 10 feet. Female white crappie enter the spawning area and deposit their eggs in one or more of the nests, which are immediately fertilized by the male fish. The number of eggs in a crappie nest is variable, but a nest can hold up to 20,000.

The eggs hatch in about 3 days and the sac-fry remain attached to the substrate for several more days. After the yolk sac is absorbed, the young fish free themselves from the bottom by swimming vigorously. The fry leave the nest only at night and do not congregate into schools.

Growth of white crappie in Iowa averages about 2 to 3 inches in the first year, reaching 10 to 12 inches by the fourth year. Crappie seldom exceed 2 pounds in Iowa, but the record fish caught from our waters is 4 pounds, 9 ounces set in 1981. The exact species of this fish, black or white, was never verified.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
Trumbull Lake Clay 4 miles west, 5 miles north of Ruthven 1183.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 889.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
High Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 467.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 401.00
Lost Grove Lake Scott Six miles east of Eldridge 400.00
West Swan Lake S.W.M.A. Emmet 3m SE Gruver 379.00
Ingham Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 357.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Don Williams Lake Boone 5 miles north of Ogden 151.00
Viking Lake Montgomery 4 miles east of Stanton 136.00
Union Grove Lake Tama 4 miles South of Gladbrook 100.00
Diamond Lake Poweshiek 1 mile West of Montezuma 98.00
Grays Lake Polk Fleur Drive, Des Moines 96.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Terry Trueblood Lake Johnson 1.5 miles south of Hwy 6 on Gilbert Street in Iowa City. 90.00
Otter Creek Lake Tama 6 miles Northeast of Toledo 74.00
Atlantic Quarry Pond 3 Cass 60.90
Greenfield Lake Adair 1 mile southwest of Greenfield 56.00
Folsom Lake Mills 2 miles west of Glenwood 45.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Petersons Pit, West Story 4 miles northeast of Ames 33.00
Kent Park Lake Johnson 2.5 miles West of Tiffin 26.00
Nodaway Lake Adair 2 miles southwest of Greenfield 25.00
Mill Creek (Lake) O'Brien 1 mile east of Paullina 23.00
Glenwood Lake Mills East edge of Glenwood 15.00
Pilot Grove Lake Montgomery 5 miles east of Elliott 5.00