The white crappie is deep-bodied and silvery in color, ranging from silvery-white on the belly to a silvery-green or even dark green on the back. There are several vertical bars on the sides. The dorsal fin has a maximum of six spines.

The native range of white crappie included the area west of the Appalachian Mountains from Ontario Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The range extended west to Minnesota and South Dakota in the north, and to northeastern Mexico in the south.

Restocking efforts have greatly expanded the range of white crappie, with the present day the range extending eastward to the Atlantic coast, and westward including California and portions of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and North Dakota.