Dark gray or greenish on back, shading to silvery or white on sides. Sides marked with many spots and wavy, broken lines. Posterior dorsal and anal fins are large and fanlike. The very similar white crappie is seldom found in Florida.
SIZE: The average is 8-12 ounces; specimens between 1-2 pounds are fairly common; maximum probably around 4 pounds. World record 5 pounds; Florida record 3.83 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Excellent; white, fine-grained meat.
GAME QUALITIES: Fair; not as spunky as other panfish.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Nothing beats a canepole and “Missouri Minnows”—the name given to the small minnows sold in bait shops. Any sort of wild minnow or small baitfish will do, however. Grass shrimp are excellent too, and earthworms work to some extent. Ultralight and light spinning outfits rival the pole in productivity at times. Leading lures are tiny leadhead jigs and in-line spinners, small spinnerbaits and midget models of swimming plugs (crankbaits). Fly rodders pick up an occasional speck on surface bugs while potluck fishing, but if targeting them, should cast small streamer flies with sinking lines. Flyrod spinners rank among the top choices.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling; Casting.
HABITAT: Prefers calm and reasonably clear water. Generally stays deep, around brush or other structure, except during the spawning season of late winter and early spring, when it beds in water as shallow as 3-4 feet deep around grass or other aquatic vegetation. Found both in lakes and in rivers with deep, slow stretches of water.