Best States for Crappie in 2014

Best States for Crappie in 2014


When it comes to American angling, crappie are unique fish. The world is home to only two species — the black crappie and white crappie — and both are native to North America.

Black crappie originated in the eastern half of the United States with the exception of the northeastern seaboard. Starting in the late 1800s, introduction efforts expanded the range of the species to nonnative eastern sections as well as territories in the West and Midwest.

The original range of the white crappie extended from eastern South Dakota to New York south to Alabama and Texas. This species has also been widely introduced to new waters, and like the black crappie, it now thrives in all lower 48 states.

Together, these two species comprise our most popular group of American panfish. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at least 6.1 million U.S. anglers aged 16 years and older fish for them. Only black bass, trout and catfish are more popular.

Crappie don't fight hard, and they don't get very big, either. A 3-pounder is a monster, and it may bite so lightly you won't even know it's there. People love crappie, nevertheless, because they are widespread, abundant in numbers, relatively easy to catch year-round and among the most delicious fish on the planet.

Yet, the primary question for panfish anglers remains: "Where can I fish so I have the greatest chance of catching as many crappie as the law allows?"

With so many possibilities, that can be a tough question to answer. But after extensive research, I believe the following 10 states encompass more topnotch crappie hotspots than any others. Plan a trip to one of these best states for crappie this year and you'll have a better than average chance of loading a live well, cooler or stringer with limit after limit of these scrumptious panfish, including, if you're lucky, some true slabs weighing 2 to 3 pounds or more.

1. Mississippi

As one avid crappie angler said when I polled him on the top crappie-fishing states, 'There's Mississippi and then there's everywhere else. The Magnolia State is its own crappie planet! '

Top here is Grenada Lake, a shallow, 36,000-acre Corps of Engineers impoundment 82 miles south of Memphis, Tenn., on I-55. It produces more trophy crappie than any other fishery in the country. Big fish are so common the local tourism board has nicknamed the lake 'Home of the 3-Pound Crappie. '

Add the many other blue-ribbon slab crappie lakes in Mississippi — Enid (where Mississippi anglers Brandon Fulgham and Alex Brewer caught the massive stringers of fish in the accompanying photo), Sardis, Arkabutla, Washington and Ross Barnett, to name just a few — and you have a crappie angler's paradise.

Photo Provided by Brandon Fulgham

2. Alabama

Weiss Lake in the state's northeast corner has long been known as 'The Crappie Capital of the World, ' a title guide Lee Pitts, pictured here with two Weiss slabs, says is well deserved.

But Weiss is just one of dozens of prime Alabama crappie waters that include the Alabama River and lakes Logan Martin, Neely Henry, Pickwick, Guntersville, Aliceville and Miller's Ferry.

In recent years, the state has managed intensively for crappie in all its reservoirs, making this one of the nation's top destinations for 'barn door ' action. A 4-pound, 5-ounce state-record black crappie caught in Ft. Payne Reservoir in 2007 exemplifies this contention.

Photo Provided by Keith Sutton

3. Arkansas

Natural State anglers have been landing astounding numbers of huge crappie throughout the state in recent years, like this pair of 3-pounders caught by Dennis Bayles in Lake Dardanelle near Russellville.

In June 2011, 10-year-old Donivan Echols of Mena boated a new state-record black crappie weighing 5 pounds (tying the IGFA world record) in 200-acre Lake Wilhelmina (Polk County).

Fish that size are as rare as 20-pound largemouths, but waters like lakes Conway, Greeson, Maumelle, Bull Shoals, Millwood, Nimrod and oxbows along the White and Mississippi rivers continue to be renowned as top producers of gigantic crappie.

Photo Provided by Dennis Bayles

4. Tennessee

The Volunteer State undoubtedly ranks among the top in the nation for its crappie offerings. That comes in part from the simple fact that Tennessee is loaded with places where crappie find easy living.

Strings of major impoundments along the state's major rivers collectively offer hundreds of thousands of acres of prime crappie habitat. Add to this the fact that the state's Wildlife Resource Agency doesn't settle for the 'good ' fishing that would naturally occur. Instead, they actively manage Tennessee crappie waters to make them even better.

Top lakes include Reelfoot (where pro anglers Kent Driscoll and John Harrison caught the slabs pictured here), Percy Priest, Kentucky, Center Hill, Boone, Watauga, Chickamauga and Douglas.

Photo Provided by Keith Sutton

5. Oklahoma

Sooner State crappie anglers are on the water year-round — spring, summer, fall and winter. Some like fishing so much they have built heated on-the-water shacks with holes in the floors so they can ply their favorite waters even on the coldest days.

Fortunately for them, there are plenty of lakes where 'specks ' are plentiful and easy to catch. Massive 102,000-acre Eufaula Lake, for example, not only produces lots of crappie, it gives up 2- to 3-pounders so often they hardly merit notice.

Arkansas angler Chris Gulstad caught this big stringer while fishing there. Other blue-ribbon waters for big crappie and lots of them include lakes Thunderbird, Hefner, Arcadia, Grand, Ft. Gibson, Tenkiller and Texoma.

Photo Provided by Keith Sutton

6. South Carolina

The Santee-Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie, are famous for the world-record-class catfish they have produced. But in recent months, the lakes' huge crappie have been in the limelight, with anglers like Kevin Black of Cross, pictured here, landing big catches of 2- to 3-pounders almost daily.

These lakes are but two of dozens of top-flight crappie waters in the Palmetto State, however, a fact exemplified by a 30-percent increase in the number of South Carolina crappie anglers between 2001 and 2006.

Other must-visit destinations include lakes Wateree, Murray, Wylie, Great Falls, Greenwood, Richard B. Russell and Warren.

Photo Provided by Kevin Davis

7. Florida

With shirt-sleeve fishing weather throughout even the coldest months, the Sunshine State has been a popular crappie-fishing destination for years. This is black crappie country exclusively, and while these 'speckled perch ' seldom reach huge sizes, they're plentiful from the Panhandle to the Everglades.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission just released a list of the best lakes for 2014, all of which can produce limit stringers of these good-eating panfish.

Included are lakes Monroe, Talquin, Lochloosa, Weohyacapka, Weir, Griffin, Arbuckle, Marian, Marion, West Tohopekaliga, Kissimee, Istokpoga, Trafford and the Mosaic and Tenoroc Fish Management Areas. Karen Presley of Merritt Island caught the nice fish pictured here in Lake Monroe.

Photo Provided by Ron Presley

8. Missouri

Ranked second in popularity with Show-Me State anglers, crappie are easy to catch and plentiful in nearly all of Missouri's lakes and rivers.

Table Rock, Truman and Stockton lakes are well-known far outside the state's borders as top-of-the-heap honeyholes for big fish, and there are scores of other waters statewide bristling with 1- to 2-pound crappie that often wind up on anglers' dinner tables.

Missouri's many small watershed lakes and ponds often produce whoppers, too, like the private Callaway County pond where John Horstman of Fulton caught the 5-pound, IGFA world-record black crappie (pictured here) in 2006.

Photo Provided by IGFA

9. Louisiana

Anglers like Bobby Phillips of West Monroe, pictured here with a stringer full of big Lake D'Arbonne slabs, haven't been speaking too loudly about their state's great crappie fishing. But word is out that the Bayou State is a top destination for anglers hoping to load coolers with crappie, including some heavyweights.

D'Arbonne has been listed among the top 50 crappie lakes in the country. Other Louisiana hotspots include Caney Lake (which has produced three state-record black crappie), Toledo Bend Reservoir, Saline Lake, Vernon Lake, Poverty Point Reservoir and many bayous in the Atchafalaya River Basin.

Photo Provided by Glynn Harris

10. Illinois

The Prairie State often gets overlooked when great crappie states are mentioned, but some of the enormous slabs caught there in recent years show it's a must-visit locale if you want a chance at a true wall-hanger.

Kinkaid Lake near Murphysboro, for example, produced a 4-pound, 5-ounce fish in 2010, and a 4.5-pound hybrid crappie was pulled from a Jefferson County farm pond in 2008. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the best lakes for big black crappie are Evergreen, Shelbyville and Carlyle, and the best white crappie lakes are Braidwood, Heidecke and Shelbyville.

Here, Kyle Schoenherr, who guides on Rend Lake, Kinkaid Lake and Lake of Egypt, shows a crappie typical of those often caught in these southern Illinois impoundments.

Photo Provided by Keith Sutton

Photo by Ryan Gilligan

About the Author

With a resumé listing more than 3,800 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith "Catfish" Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country's best-known outdoor writers. In 2012, he was enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator. The 12 books he's written are available through his website.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos


Mustad's Inkvader Octopus Live Jig

From big fish to small, just about any saltwater game fish out there will love the new Mustad Inkvader Octopus Live Jig that Mustad's Russ Whisler shows to OSG's Lynn Burkhead.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

Fresh off catching the biggest bass in ICAST Cup history, 13 Fishing pro Jessie Mizell shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Big Squirm soft plastic worm and the company's unique Pathfinder topwater walking bait that is totally weedless in design.

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

See More Trending Articles

More Other Freshwater

It may be the middle of the summer, but it's not too early to think about winter ice fishing. Other Freshwater

Augers to Tip-Ups: Best Ice Fishing Gear at ICAST

Drew Warden - August 01, 2019

It may be the middle of the summer, but it's not too early to think about winter ice fishing.

Catching winter walleyes often requires mobility and a willingness to adjust tactics. Other Freshwater

Hardwater Handbook: Ice-Fishing Adaptations

Mark Romanack - January 28, 2020

Catching winter walleyes often requires mobility and a willingness to adjust tactics.

Manufacturers are always hard at work developing new products to make things easier for anglers on the ice. Other Freshwater

Ice-Fishing Gear Must-Haves

Drew Warden - January 28, 2020

Manufacturers are always hard at work developing new products to make things easier for...

The Sooner State's recent run of huge paddlefish continues with 146.7-pounder caught at Keystone Lake. News

Okla. Paddlefish May Be New World Record

Lynn Burkhead - June 29, 2020

The Sooner State's recent run of huge paddlefish continues with 146.7-pounder caught at...

See More Other Freshwater

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now