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Can You Eat a Crappie Fish?

Crappie fish are a readily found fish across the United States. The species heavily populates freshwater lakes and rivers from the Eastern Seaboard and Southwest along the rest of the country.

In these rivers, crappies tend to hide among cover to protect themselves from predators, and a way in which they can leap out and ambush their prey (normally small riverbed creatures and fish).

So, with their wide distribution across the United States, can you eat a crappie fish? The answer is: yes. Crappies are delicious when properly cooked, and there used to be a thriving crappie fishery trade that distributed the fish all across the country, especially down in the southern states.

Even though the booming crappie trade has died down somewhat, and the fish is slightly less readily available, it is still immensely popular.

Both black and white crappie are among the most popular panfish eaten today.

Despite being less prevalent in some stores nowadays, these tasty little freshwater critters can still be caught from nearby water sources with a lot of ease and are still available from other sellers.

So, if you want to know everything about eating crappie fish, the benefits and problems of consumption, what the fish tastes like (both cooked and raw) and the best recipes for crappie fish – read on!

Benefits of Eating a Crappie Fish

There are several benefits to the consumption of black and white crappie fish (apart from how delicious they are, of course!).

Crappie are surprisingly nutritious. They contain next to no carbohydrates in a serving, making it an extremely popular choice for those on keto diets and focusing their meal plans on cutting carbs.

Alongside this lack of carbs, the fish is incredibly high in protein, making it a great choice for weight loss and muscle gain diets.

While crappie is fairly fatty, it should be remembered that these fats are actually healthy ones! Crappies are full of Omega 3 fatty acids that can help with heart disease and other such issues.

The fats in a crappie are not the same trans fats that exist in some other fish, so do not be worried about the fats in this fish!

Despite their diet of other freshwater fish and insects, they do not consume enough of these bugs to pick up contaminants. This fact makes crappies one of the purest freshwater fish available for a relatively low price point in the US.

Another positive of the crappie is that its introduction as a farmed fish to have within fisheries will have minimal ecological impact, and does need to be managed that much.

This tells us that the fish is not as invasive as other freshwater creatures that are used in the US, meaning its increased eating and farming will not negatively impact the environment they are found in.

Problems with Eating Crappie Fish

The problem with writing a pros and cons list of crappies is there are next to no bad points!

Crappie is delicious, but it does contain a fair number of calories. Not as many as some other fish, mind, but it does contain them, nevertheless.

This makes the fish perhaps not ideal for diets focused around counting calories – but even in this instance it can probably be consumed in moderation.

As with all freshwater caught fish, both species of crappie contain potential reserves of mercury inside them. Mercury is something that should absolutely not be consumed by pregnant women.

This is why it is recommended that pregnant women not consume very many fish at all, and perhaps should not have any of certain high-risk fishes.

It is recommended that pregnant women and children under the age of fifteen should only consume one portion of crappie per week due to the potential mercury content.

Despite most of the afflictions not being toxic to humans, black crappie fish are particularly susceptible to disease.

What does Crappie Fish Taste Like?

Crappie is has a very subtle, sweet taste. Some claim it can be a touch bland, without a distinct fishy taste (unlike its freshwater cousin the bluegill), which is often why it is fried using southern style batters and sauces, to perhaps shore up the flavor.

When properly prepared, crappie should have a soft, delicate, flaky texture, and you should be able to flake it apart like cod fish. It is quite similar to cod in texture (but less fishy), and as such battering and frying it is the most popular cooking technique. 

This batter protects the flaky internal meat of the crappie, when normal frying can often lead to the fish flaking apart in the pan if overcooked.

What is the Best Way to Prepare Crappie Fish?

Crappies are especially popular down in the southern states in the United States, so we consider this fish best cooked using a classical southern fish technique – a Crappie Fish Fry.

Crappie Fish Fry

  1. Prepare your crappie by slicing it into long, finger-like strips.
  2. Create your batter/marinade by combining beer, corn flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Whisk this until light and frothy, making sure to take care in this step as corn flour being introduced to liquid can have some unexpected consequences. For this step I would recommend a light beer, like an IPA or lager.
  3. Refrigerate this for at least an hour, but up to five days – the longer the better the batter.
  4. Preheat a fryer (or pan with an inch or so of oil in) with oil to between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Dredge your crappie strips in flour, shaking off the excess.
  6. Dip into the beer batter, then introduce to the pan.
  7. Fry until perfectly golden brown on both sides, then remove from the pan. Add it to a cooling rack and season with some flaky salt.
  8. Serve with lemon wedges, hot sauce and fresh tartar sauce. If you want a great tartar sauce recipe, you can find one here.

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.