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 silver with 5-10 often faint, dark vertical bars. The dorsal fin has 6 spines.
Similar species: Black crappie have irregularly arranged speckles and blotches instead of faint vertical bars as the color pattern. They also have 7 or 8 dorsal fin spines instead of 6.