Crappie In Small Ponds


Either black or white crappie can live in suitable Missouri ponds, although black crappie may be less likely to overpopulate if a pond unexpectedly becomes muddy. Black crappie are a bit plumper than white crappie at any given length, but neither species has been shown to be superior to the other in a suitable Missouri pond environment.

Successful crappie management in ponds requires clear water, rooted aquatic plants, and sufficient numbers of adult largemouth bass to control the numbers of young crappie. If any of these conditions are lacking, crappie can take over the pond.

Water Clarity

If water clarity is low, predator fish won't be able to see young crappie to eat them. You won't get many crappie over 5 or 6 inches.

Good clarity means you can see a light object in 24 inches of water.

Poor water clarity can be caused by:

  • Bare or disturbed soil uphill
  • Clay soils with small suspendable particles in the pond basin.
  • Excessive algae caused by fertilizers from surrounding fields.

Underwater Plants

  • Rooted underwater plants around the shoreline provide food and shelter for young bass, which become crappie predators.
  • Stocking grass carp can be risky. Grass carp can wipe out all your aquatic plants.

Largemouth Bass

  • Largemouth bass are predators to crappie. A good population of largemouth bass is key to keeping crappie numbers in check.
  • After three years, the surviving crappie will be 8 to 9 inches long.
  • Without largemouth bass, crappie may struggle to get larger than 5 or 6 inches long.
  • Protect your bass with length limits. A voluntary length limit or slot limit will encourage small, hungry, and slow-growing bass that will keep crappie from overpopulating.

Crappie Food

  • Crappie will eat some of the same species of plankton and aquatic insects that bluegill and young bass eat.
  • When they become large enough to eat fish, crappie will eat young bluegill as well.
  • Stocking fathead minnows into a new pond may give crappie a single-season boost in growth, but fatheads usually disappear after a year or two of predation by bass or crappie.
  • Don't stock other prey fish, like gizzard shad. Bass will eat them instead of young crappie.


  • Crappie may be harvested in any number and at any length without fear of eliminating the population. A few adults will always elude the angler’s hook and survive until spawning season.
  • If crappie numbers seem low, landowners may impose a voluntary minimum length limit of 9 or 10 inches.

Crappie Beds

  • Sink cedar or old Christmas trees to create “crappie beds" to attract fish to provide fast angling action.
  • Crappie beds placed near shore attract fish during the April-May spawning season.
  • Beds placed at depths of 5 to 10 feet attract fish the rest of the year.

Stocking Density

In established ponds:

  • Stock 30 adults (mixed males and females) immediately prior to the spawning season in April or May.
  • Handle fish carefully and transport in the largest possible container of cool pond or lake water to prevent respiratory distress.
  • Note: It is illegal to stock public waters.

In new ponds:

  • Wait a couple years for the bass/bluegill community to become partly developed, then stock adult crappie as above,
  • OR
  • Stock 2-inch crappie fingerlings in June (provided the existing bass are not larger).

Stock between 50 and 200 per acre, depending on your preference. On the high, reduce the stocking density of bluegill (500 per acre) and channel catfish (100 per acre) fingerlings to minimize competition for food. Landowners can favor one species or the other, depending upon their objectives.


Pond Care 106: Managing Crappie

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Contact Us

For additional information you may contact your local fishery biologist; call our Central Office at 573-751-4115 or write to us at:

Missouri Department of Conservation
Fisheries Division
PO Box 180
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180