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Count spines to differentiate white vs black crappie

By Jack Spaulding

 I picked up on a glaring mistake on a professional TV fishing program the other day. Granted, I’m often wrong, but if I am, I’ll admit to it and try to rectify the situation and set things right.

A well-known angler, who will remain unnamed to protect the guilty, landed a nice crappie.  Unhooking and briefly examining the fish, the angler stated, “Boy, this fish is dark… I guess that’s why they call it a black crappie?”

Nope… wrong on the fish ID. Color is not a positive indicator of the difference between a white crappie and a black crappie. With variable water conditions, a white crappie may be rather dark in color, and in other waters, a black crappie may appear rather light in color.

Black crappie and white crappie can inhabit the same body of water.

One determining characteristic are the fishes’ profiles.

Glancing at the profile of the fish on the TV show, it looked to me to be a white crappie. It was slightly elongated or “stretched out,” in comparison to having a stubby and fat profile like a black crappie.

The defining test for black crappie vs. white crappie is the number of stiff dorsal fins. The dorsal fin is the fin on top of the fish, and it has hard spike-like spines. A white crappie will have five to six spines, while a black crappie will have seven to eight spines. When in doubt, a quick count of the spines will provide a positive identification.

Bonus antlerless quotas lowered

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has impacted the deer herd in Wayne, Union, Fayette, and Franklin counties this year. As a result, Indiana DNR has reduced the County Bonus Antlerless Quotas (CBAQ) in the four counties to a maximum of one.

Humans are not at risk for contracting EHD, which is a viral disease affecting white-tailed deer to some degree every year. It typically occurs during late summer and early fall. There is evidence outbreaks may be more severe in years in which there is a wet spring followed by a hot, dry fall. EHD is transmitted by flies commonly known as biting midges, sand gnats and “no-see-ums.”

EHD is often fatal to deer, but some survive the illness. Not every deer in an affected area will contract EHD. One sign a deer has contracted and survived EHD is evidence of sloughing or breaking on their hooves. Indiana DNR asks successful hunters use the Deer After Hunt Survey to report the condition of their deer’s hooves, including both normal hooves and hooves showing evidence of sloughing or damage.

The DNR monitors for EHD annually. Severe outbreaks rarely occur in subsequent years due to immunity gathered from previous infections. EHD is not believed to have long-term impacts on the deer population.

The effects of the deer harvest and EHD will be evaluated after the deer season and additional changes will be made the next year if necessary.

Anyone finding a deer they suspect died of EHD should report it using the form at


Flora field day

Want to work on your flora identification skills? Practice with a naturalist. Field day emphasis is on proper use and application of an ID key, which opens the door to identifying thousands of species. The naturalist will work with each attendee based on the participant’s prior experience. If you’ve never worked with flower ID before, this is a great way to learn. If you have prior experience, this is a fun way to practice your skills (and maybe add some new blooms to your life list). The program is 9:30 a.m. Oct. 4 at Paynetown SRA. Register by Oct. 2 at The two-hour program is free, and recommended for ages 12 and older.


Explore Monroe paddling trips

Explore the quieter side of Monroe Lake during the guided paddling trips journeying through backwaters, wetlands, bays and/or slow-moving streams. Trips highlight beautiful views, hidden wildlife, aquatic plants and unique land features. Find your new favorite place to kayak. All participants must have at least two hours of prior paddling experience or have completed one of our Beginner Kayaking workshops. Each trip is limited to 10 people, ages 16+, and lasts about two hours. Trip fee is $10 per person. Kayak rentals available for an additional $20.

The trip is Oct. 11 at 9 a.m. at Pine Grove SRA. Register at by Oct. 6.


Camouflage the duck blinds

Volunteers are invited to help clean, repair and cut brush to camouflage the blinds in the Stillwater-Northfork Wildlife Area in preparation for the upcoming waterfowl hunting season. Volunteer workday is Oct. 1 beginning at 9 a.m.

Dress for the weather and bring work gloves, hand tools useful for cutting brush, and a water bottle. If you plan to stay in the afternoon, bring a sack lunch. Youth under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Meet at the Northfork Check Station located east of Bloomington, off of State Road 46, 1/3 mile south of Kent and McGowan roads. For directions, call 812-837-9546. Advance registration is greatly appreciated at by noon on Sept. 30, but last-minute volunteers are also welcome to just show up on Saturday morning.

Readers can contact the author by writing to this publication, or e-mail to

Spaulding’s books, “The Best of Spaulding Outdoors,” and his latest, “The Coon Hunter And The Kid,” are available from