Pomoxis annularis

white crappie



Type Locality

Ohio River (Rafinesque 1818).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Pomoxis, Greek, meaning “opercle sharp”, in reference to the spines on the gill cover; annularis, Latin, meaning “having rings”, in reference to the dark bands extending around the body (Pflieger 1975).



Pomoxis annularis: Rafinesque 1818:41; Large 1903:23; Forbes and Richardson 1908:238-240; O’Donnell 1935:487; Smith 1965:10. 

Pomoxys annularis:  Nelson 1876:37; Jordan 1878.



Maximum size: 510 mm TL (Carlander 1977).


Coloration: Body pigmentation in vertical bands (Hubbs et al. 1991). Eyes greenish yellow; upper head and back darkish greenish with bluish, greenish, and silver overtones; sides with greenish wash over silver ground color and with 5-10 darker, irregular vertical bars; ventral head and abdomen whitish. Dark spots present on the operculum. Dorsal, caudal, and anal fins marked with dark vermiculations and light spots (Sublette et al. 1990).


Counts:  Usually 6 dorsal fin spines; 5-8 anal spines; 6 or 7 branchiostegals (Hubbs et al. 1991); 38-50 lateral line scales; 14-15 dorsal rays; 6 (5-6) anal spines; 17-19 anal rays; 15 pectoral rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape:  Laterally compressed (Sublette et al. 1990).


Mouth position: Terminal, somewhat oblique (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Length of dorsal fin base less than distance from its origin to posterior margin of eye; lateral line present (complete and arched upward anteriorly; Ross 2001); scales ctenoid (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Internal morphology: Intestine well differentiated; silvery peritoneum; pyloric caecae present; jaws, palantines, and pharyngeal arches with numerous small, sharp teeth (Goldstein and Simon 1999; Sublette et al. 1990).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Natural range restricted to freshwaters of east central North America from southern Ontario and southwestern New York west of Appalachians, south to Gulf coast and west to Texas, South Dakota, and southern Minnesota; widely introduced into other suitable waters in United States (Lee 1980).


Texas distribution: Occurred naturally in the eastern two-thirds of Texas, but introduced populations now may be found statewide except in the upper Texas portions of the Rio Grande and Pecos basins (Hubbs et al 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for distribution of Pomoxis annularis in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in the southern drainages are currently secure (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Streams, lakes, ponds, slow-moving areas of large rivers (Lee

1980). Species was rare in river channel samples, but abundant in oxbow lakes of the Brazos River, Texas (Zeug et al. 2005).


Mesohabitat: In Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas) species was abundant in nearly all parts of lake down to a depth of 50 feet; most frequently taken at depths less than 10 feet during April and May, and at depths ranging from 25-40 feet, from November – February; occasionally found in tail waters (Riggs and Bonn 1959). In reservoirs, juvenile and nonspawning adults occur in open water and show pattern of vertical migration, moving nearer the surface at night. In summer, fish move to cool water and are found near or below thermocline in lakes. As water in this area is often devoid of oxygen, fish may be forced into a narrow zone around thermocline where sufficient oxygen can be found, as well as lower water temperatures (O’Brien et al. 1984; Ross 2001).



Spawning season: In Texas, late March - early May (Schloemer 1947).


Spawning location: Phytophils; plant material nesters that have adhesive eggs and free embryos that hang on plants by cement glands (Simon 1999). Nesting at depths of 5 cm to 1.5 m, generally within 10 m of the shore, on hard clay or gravel, or on the roots of aquatic or terrestrial plants on which eggs are deposited (Hansen 1965; Siefert 1968). Demersal, adhesive eggs may drift outside of nest area and attach to logs, vegetation, or other structure (Hansen 1943, 1965). Taber (1969) reported that spawning was associated with inundated terrestrial vegetation in Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas.


Reproductive strategy: Guarders; nest spawners (Simon 1999). Nests averaging 30 cm in diameter, irregularly shaped, often shallow and ill-defined, are built by the male who sweeps out sediment from an area using fin and body movements (females occasionally display nest-sweeping behavior); male actively defends territory of about 1 m² around the nest site (Hansen 1965; Siefert 1968). Male guards nest area against egg predators and may court and spawn with several females (Siefert 1968).


Fecundity: Morgan (1954) reported fecundity, indicated by ovarian egg counts, markedly varied with size of female; 149 mm TL individual producing about 1,900 eggs, while a 330 mm TL fish produced 325,677 eggs. Fertilized eggs are adhesive, demersal, averaging 0.90 mm in diameter (Hansen 1943). Eggs hatch in 42 hours at water temperature of 22.8 degrees C and in 93 hours at 14.4 degrees C. Larvae remain in nest area until 4.1-4.6 mm TL, this length usually reached between 2.1-6.8 days (Siefert 1968).


Age at maturation: In Texas, some individuals mature at age 1 (Carlander 1977); in Illinois, maturity was reached by 2 or 3 years (Hansen 1951).




Longevity: About 8 years, may live up to 10 years in more northern areas (Muoneke et al. 1992).


Food habits: Goldstein and Simon (1999) list first and second trophic level classifications as invertivore/carnivore and whole body, respectively.  Carlander (1977) lists rotifers, copepod nauplii, and Bosmina as first foods eaten, with Daphnia, Diatomus, and Leptodora eaten as size increased; zooplankton primary food source during first year, with some amphipods and chronomids taken in late fall and early spring; entomostraca continues to be significant food source throughout life in most water; insects and forage fish usually main food source for large crappies. Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense) comprised over 97% of the volume of food in the diet of the Benbrook Lake, Texas population, except period from March – May when plankton and insect larvae contributed up to 45% (Greene and Murphy 1971).


Growth: In Texas, average condition increased with length and also when numbers of crappies were reduced, condition was highest in the winter when metabolic rates were low and were lowest in the spring, when food was scarce, improving in summer and fall; little evidence of sex differences in growth (Carlander 1977). Averages of fish from Mississippi were: 114 mm TL after one year, 171 mm TL  after two years, 223 mm TL after three years,  245 mm TL after four, 281 mm TL after five, 291 mm TL after six, 333 mm TL after seven, and 365 mm TL after eight (Hammers and Miranda 1991).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

This species is most similar to the black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), drom which it differs in having 5-6 rather than 7-8 dorsal spines, a shorter dorsal fin base (length of the fin is less than distance from dorsal origin to the eye), more distinct bands on sides, and a somewhat shallower body. White crappie differs from all other sunfishes in having less than 10 dorsal spines (Ross 2001). P. annularis more tolerant of turbidity and siltation than P. nigromaculatus (Carlander 1977; Lee 1980). P. annularis known to hybridize naturally with black crappie (P. nigromaculatus); artificially crossed with other genera (Schwartz 1972; Travnichek et al. 1996).


Host Records

Species reported to host: Gyrodactylus goerani (Harris et al. 2004); Cestoda (2), Trematoda (9), Nemata (4), Acanthocephala (2), Copepoda (3; Mayberry et al. 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Although the natural range of this species through most of the south-central U.S., widely stocked as a game fish (Hubbs et al 1991). One of the most important game fishes in Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas; Riggs and Bonn 1959). In Missouri, ranks as one of most popular panfishes, as it is fairly large in size and readily caught (Pflieger 1975).



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