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
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 16, Mississippi River Scott The amenities list are for Buffalo Shores campground in Buffalo, Iowa. Amenities at other locations in Pool 16 vary by location. 13000.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. This ramp is located in downtown Muscatine. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
Clear Lake Cerro Gordo south edge of Clear Lake 3684.00
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 940.00
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
Lower Gar Lake Dickinson ½ mile south of Arnolds Park 251.00
Little Wall Lake Hamilton 1 1/2 miles south of Jewell 249.00
Lake Cornelia Wright 3 1/2 miles north, 2 miles east of Clarion 243.00
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
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa 104.00
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
Beeds Lake Franklin 2 miles west, 1 mile north of Hampton 90.00
Terry Trueblood Lake Johnson 1.5 miles south of Hwy 6 on Gilbert Street in Iowa City. 90.00
Pony Creek Lake Mills 3 1/2 miles northwest of Glenwood 83.00
Otter Creek Lake Tama 6 miles Northeast of Toledo 74.00
Upper Pine Lake Hardin 1/2 mile east of Eldora 69.00
Lower Pine Lake Hardin 1/2 mile east of Eldora 62.00
Atlantic Quarry Pond 3 Cass 60.90
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk The Highway 30 Access is in the middle of this river section and is located 3 miles west of Boone on the north side of Highway 30. 57.00
Greenfield Lake Adair 1 mile southwest of Greenfield 56.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion 50.00
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
Upper Gar Lake Dickinson east of Arnolds Park 36.00
Meadow Lake Adair 6 miles northeast of Greenfield 34.00
Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve Lake (west) Jasper 6 miles southeast of Kellogg 28.00
Kent Park Lake Johnson 2.5 miles West of Tiffin 26.00
Mohawk Park Lake Linn East side of the Cedar River off J Ave. 26.00
Nodaway Lake Adair 2 miles southwest of Greenfield 25.00
Interstate Park Lake Franklin 1 mile west, 2 mile south of I-35 & Hwy 3 20.00
Black Pit Cerro Gordo SW Edge Mason City 16.00
Glenwood Lake Mills East edge of Glenwood 15.00
Pilot Grove Lake Montgomery 5 miles east of Elliott 5.00