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Discover Nature: Crappie

A white crappie sits, suspended in dark water, with a white body and black vertical stripes of scales.
White crappie are spawning in Missouri waters this week across most of the state.

This week on Discover Nature, crappie are spawning in shallow water across Missouri.

These popular panfish occur nearly statewide in open water or near submerged timber or other suitable cover in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and slow-flowing backwaters of large rivers. 

During the spring spawning season, these fish find vegetation and submerged woody structure in shallow water.  

Crappie are most active in evening and nighttime, but can be observed at all times of day. 

Individuals usually live no more than three or four years, but occasionally can live eight years or more. They nest in colonies in or near plant growth, if available, with as many as 35 nests being reported in a single colony. 

Crappie primarily eat minnows and young shad, as well as aquatic insects and small crustaceans. 

In Missouri white crappie are more prolific than black crappie, and its size and prevalence make it one of the most popular fish species in the angler’s creel. 

Learn more about both white and black crappie species, including where to find them, how to catch them, and recipes for putting fresh, wild-caught food on the table with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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