How Long Do Crappie Live

How Long Do Crappie Live?

Crappie, also known as sac-a-lait, are a freshwater fish found in North America. They are prized sport fish and are one of the most popular freshwater fish to eat.

Most black crappie live about 4 years. Some can live up to 10 years or more, but they are increasingly rare. White crappie have a slightly shorter average life span of about 3 years. The oldest crappie on record was 15 years old.

Crappie Lifespan

Although crappie are only expected to live 4 years on average, their population is very healthy and they are not considered a threatened species.

Crappie begin reproducing somewhere between the age of 2 and 4 years old. Male crappie make a nest by clearing a circle in the lake or river bottom where the female can lay her eggs. This typically happens when water temperatures reach between 58 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In the south, this happens much earlier in the year due to the warmer climate compared to the northern US. Additionally, the waters in the south generally tend to be warmer which is a driving factor in the size of the crappie found there. If you want to catch big slabs, head to the southern US.

How To Tell A Crappie’s Age

Aging a fish is very much a science and not an art.

There are primarily three ways to tell how old a crappie is: using its scales, using the otolith, and using its size.

Scales

One of the interesting things about crappie is that you can use their scales to get an idea of how old they are. Crappie have “growth rings” that show up in their scales, very similar to the rings found in a tree trunk. As I mentioned earlier, warmer waters allow the crappie to grow quicker, while cool waters slow down growth. This means that when you look at a crappie scale under a microscope, you can see the growth rings come very close together during the winter, and further apart during the summer. Using those rings, you can count how many years a fish has been alive.

Otolith

Another way to age a crappie is by using its Otolith. The otolith is essentially an ear bone found behind the fish’s brain. Similar to the growth rings found on a crappie’s scales, you can also find growth rings on its otolith. This is often considered to be a more accurate way of tracking a fish’s age for a few reasons.

First, the growth rings found on an otolith tend to be easier to count under a microscope. Furthermore, one of the main problems with using a fish scale as an indicator of age is that they are regenerative. Sometimes fish lose scales and grow back new ones which can be misleading when you are using them as an indicator of age. You don’t have that same problem with the otolith.

Size

Using a crappie’s size as an indicator of its age is a good estimate, but its not nearly as accurate as the two methods mentioned above.

Wildlife scientists often take measurements of fish in various bodies of water to get an idea of their average size, length, weight, and overall health. When you accompany that data alongside the scale aging method above, you are able to plot what the average age of fish would be at any particular length. For example, you could say that a 10″ crappie would have an average age of 3 years based on the samples taken. Again, its not nearly as accurate, but it can give you a ballpark estimate of how old a particular fish is.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Old Is A 12 Inch Crappie?

Crappie length varies drastically by region, but in the southern US, a 12-inch crappie would be around 4-6 years old.

How Old Is A 14 Inch Crappie?

Again, this depends on region, but it’s important to note that growth slows down exponentially as a crappie gets older. If a 12-inch crappie were 4-6 years old, a 14-inch crappie might be 8-10 years old.

How big is a 1 year old crappie?

Most crappie grow to be about 4 inches long after 1 year. The growth of a crappie in its first year is largely dependent on water temperatures: warmer water will allow the crappie to grow more quickly than colder water.

Next time you catch a monster crappie you’ll be able to estimate its age based on its length and where you are located. And who knows, you could be the one who catches the next world record crappie!

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