Both species of crappie as adults feed predominantly on smaller species, including the young of their own predators (which include the northern pike, muskellunge, and walleye). They have diverse diets, however, including zooplankton, insects, and crustaceans. By day, crappie tend to be less active and to concentrate around weed beds or submerged objects, such as logs and boulders; they feed especially at dawn and dusk, moving then into open water or approaching the shore.
The Pomoxis species are highly regarded game fishes and are often considered to be among the best tasting freshwater fish. Because of their diverse diets, crappie may be caught in many ways, including casting light jigs, trolling with minnows or artificial lures, using small spinnerbaits, or using bobbers. Crappies are also popular with ice-fishers, as they are active in winter.
The white crappie, Pomoxis annularis Rafinesque, 1818, is native throughout the eastern half of Canada and the United States, and has been widely introduced in the west as well.
These species prefers slower-moving water, often turbid, whether a backwater of a small creek or a large lake. When spawning, the white crappie deposits its eggs on plant surfaces or in poorly-defined nests in shallow water. This very prolific fish may overpopulate small bodies of water under 40 ha (100 acres) in area.
The black crappie, Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Lesueur, 1829), is very similar to P. annularis in size, shape, and habits, except that it is darker, with a pattern of black spots. It is most accurately identified by the seven or eight spines on its dorsal fin. The oldest recorded age of a specimen is fifteen years, although seven years is a more typical life span for the species.
The black crappie's range is uncertain, since it has been so widely transplanted, but it is presumed to be similar to the white crappie's; as of 2005, populations existed in all of the lower 48 states.
The black crappie tends to prefer clearer water than the white crappie does. Its diet, as an adult, also tends to be less dominated by other fish than that of the white crappie.
The breeding season varies by location, due to the species’ great range; breeding temperature is 14 to 20 °C (58 to 68 °F) and spawning occurs between April and June. Spawning occurs in a nest built by the male, who guards the eggs and young.
Angling for Crappie is popular throughout much of North America. Methods vary, but among the most popular is called "Spider Rigging," a method characterized by a fisherman in a boat with many long fishing rods pointing away from the angler at various angles like spokes from a wheel. Anglers who employ the Spider Rigging method may choose from among many popular baits. Some of the most popular are plastic jigs with lead jig heads, crankbaits or live minnows. Many anglers also chum or dump live bait into the water to attract the fish hoping the fish will bite their bait. Crappie are also regularly targeted and caught during the spawning period by fly fishermen, and can be taken from frozen ponds and lakes in winter by ice fishing.