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The crappies are the largest of the percids, with about 25 species. The average crappie is about 10 inches long, but it can grow to be 24 inches or more. Generally speaking, these fish have compressed, deep bodies and single dorsal fins with spines that are nearly as long as the head. The anal fin has one or two spines on its leading edge. The caudal fin is forked, and the pectoral fins are short with strong spine-like rays.

Crappies have a deep and laterally compressed body. They are usually silvery-gray to green in color and show irregular or mottled black splotches over the entire body. Black crappies have rows of dark spots on their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. The dorsal and anal fins resemble each other in shape.

The black spot on the dorsal fin is a good means of differentiating the two species most commonly encountered in Illinois. Northern crappies lack this spot while it is present in juvenile and adult white crappies. Young black crappies can be recognized by their light spots on a dark background, while young white crappies have dark spots on a light background.

General tactics for catching crappie include slowly moving docks and brush piles with live minnows or jigs and slow trolling along break lines. Crappies are also caught near submerged weed beds with minnows or jigs and slowly pulled into the weeds. Placing a marker buoy over such spots greatly increases success in catching crappie.

A boom in recreational fishing for crappies began after World War II when plastic jigs were developed to replace natural bait. Northern crappies tend to be found in deeper water than white crappies and are usually caught over weedy bottoms. White crappies prefer brush piles, bridge pilings, and other similar structures. The highest concentration for both species is often adjacent to deep water.

Black and white crappie catch made by Illinois anglers increased dramatically from 1978 through 1984. During this time, the number of black crappies harvested averaged over 100,000 per year and white crappies exceeded 500,000 fish per year.

Anglers should use a combination of barbless hooks and live bait to reduce the mortality of released fish. Anglers should also release any crappie they plan to release anyway since the harvest of one male typically means that two females have been lost.

The crappie can be found in freshwater across Illinois. Crappie is usually found in water less than 20 feet deep. The best time for finding crappies is during the spawning season. They are also available year-round since they are good at hiding in deep water or becoming inactive.

Crappies feed on plankton, crustaceans, and insects near the surface of the water during the day. They are among the most sought-after panfish due to their excellent quality as table fare. The white crappie is one of the finest eating freshwater fish found in North America.

Global crappie production

In the United States, crappies are considered one of the most popular freshwater game fish. According to the 2012 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, crappie ranked 5th in popularity among all freshwater fish (behind the bass, trout, catfish/ bullhead, and panfish/sunfish) with almost 7 million Americans participating in crappie fishing each year. In terms of total weight, crappie is the second most harvested fish by weight in the United States behind only channel catfish. The total annual crappie catch in the U.S. is estimated to be around 10 million pounds (4,500 metric tons). Global production of crappie is dominated by the United States, which accounts for around 70% of the world's total. Other major producers include Canada, China, and Italy. The majority of crappie consumed in the U.S. is caught domestically, with only a small percentage being imported from other countries. The vast majority of imported crappie comes from Canada, with smaller amounts coming from China and Mexico. While crappie is popular as game fish, it is also widely consumed as food. In the United States, crappie is often eaten fried or baked. It can also be found in soups, stews, and chowders. In Europe, crappie is commonly consumed in Italy, where it is known as cavedano. In China, crappie is considered a delicacy and is often steamed or boiled.

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