Black crappie are a popular wide bodied panfish. Reaching an average size of 1 to 2 pounds crappie are fun to catch and great to eat. Black crappie are better suited to ponds then the white crappie because black crappie produce less eggs reducing the chances of overcrowding. Black crappie spawn early in the spring (Feb and March in the deep south, March and April in the Mid south). When temperatures approach 60 degrees F males dig saucer shaped nests and begin courting females. Females approach the nests late in the afternoon and begin spawning after dark, laying up to 30,000 eggs per pound. Males fan the nest until eggs hatch in 5 to 7 days. If water temperatures drop suddenly males will desert the nest and the eggs will not hatch. This temperature induced nest failure is the cause of the boom or bust cycle associated with crappie populations.
When successful, thousands of baby crappie are produced growing into the next generation of slabs. When unsuccessful, no baby crappie are produced and the pond skips a generation of slabs. Because crappie spawn before bass, redear and bluegill, a successful crappie spawn means baby crappie will eat many baby bass, redear and bluegill. An unsuccessful crappie spawn allows a generation of baby bass, redear and bluegill to thrive. The young bass will become predators to control future generations of crappie and the redear and bluegill will become forage to feed future generations of crappie. Crappie populations are difficult to manage and are only recommended for large ponds with plenty of habitat and many small largemouth bass to control crappie populations. There are always exceptions to the rule but in general crappie do best in large ponds. With suitable habitat black crappie are capable of growing 1/4 to 1/2 pound per year after their first year.
The Arkansas Black Nosed Crappie is a strain of black crappie first described in the white river basin of Arkansas. The black nosed crappie have a black stripe running from the top of their dorsal fin, down their nose and over their bottom lip. Some believe the black nosed crappie reproduces less or is sterile, grows faster and fights harder than regular black crappie. So far no conclusive evidence has proven any of these theories. The most likely explanation for this black stripe is that it acts like the black paint football players wear under their eyes helping them to see better in certain habitats. The black stripe is the result of a recessive gene like the albino channel catfish. Black nosed black crappie readily breed with regular black crappie and are a fun addition to crappie ponds.
Recently all female black crappie, hybrid crappie, triploid (sterile) hybrid crappie and triploid (sterile) black crappie have been developed for pond stocking. Although not widely distributed both triploid hybrid crappie and triploid black crappie may be well suited to small ponds because of there inability to reproduce. Hybrid crappie, although not sterile and will spawn, have shown improved growth rates and larger maximum sizes is some studies. Only time will tell as these new crappie are raised and marketed in future years whether or not they will perform well in small ponds.