Crappies are popular panfish that are deep bodied and strongly compressed laterally (slab-sided). The upper jaw is long, reaching well past the middle of eye. The two sections of the dorsal fin (spiny forepart and soft-rayed rear part) are broadly connected, without a notch between. The anal fin is nearly as long and large as the dorsal fin, and has 6 spines. The upper surface of the head and forward part of the back are strongly concave.
This species of crappie is silvery with a color pattern that is mainly irregularly arranged speckles and blotches (not vertical bars). The dorsal fin has 7 or 8 spines.
Similar species: White crappie have faint vertical bars instead of irregularly arranged speckles and blotches as the color pattern. They also have 6 dorsal fin spines instead of 7 or 8.