King Mackerel Fishing Information
illustrations: Diane Rome Peebles
Description: color of back iridescent bluish green, sides silvery; streamlined body with tapered head; no black pigment on front of the first dorsal fin; lateral line starts high and drops sharply below the second dorsal fin; young fish often have yellowish spots like those of Spanish mackerel.
Similar fish: cero, S. regalis; Spanish mackerel, S. maculatus.
Where found: NEARSHORE and OFFSHORE; occasionally taken from piers running into deep water.
Size: common to 20 pounds.
Remarks: schooling fish that migrates from south Florida waters in winter to more northerly waters in spring; Gulf population thought to be separate from Atlantic population, with considerable mixing in winter from Cape Canaveral past Key West; spawns in mid summer OFFSHORE; feeds on small fish and squid.
The king mackerel is a migratory species of mackerel that lives its entire life in the open waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. It is an important species to both the commercial and recreational fishing industries.
Description The king mackerel is a slender fish, only slightly compressed (flattened) from side to side. The entire body is covered with very small, hardly visible, loosely attached scales. The first (spiny) dorsal fin is entirely colorless and is normally folded back into a body groove, as are the pelvic fins. The lateral line starts high on the shoulder, dips abruptly at mid-body and then continues as a wavy horizontal line to the tail. Coloration is olive on the back fading to silver with a rosy iridescence on the sides, fading to white on the belly. Fish under 10 pounds (5 kg) show yellowish brown spots on the flanks, somewhat smaller than the spots of the Atlantic Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus. Its cutting edged teeth are large, uniform, closely spaced and flattened from side to side. These teeth look very similar to those of the bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix.
Distribution and habitat The king mackerel is a sub-tropical species of the Atlantic Coast of the Americas. Common in the coastal zone from North Carolina to Brazil, it occurs as far south as Rio de Janeiro, and occasionally as far north as the Gulf of Maine. Nonetheless, a preference for water temperatures in the range of 68 to 85 °F. may limit distribution.
King mackerel commonly occur in depths of 40 to 150 feet (12–45 m), where the principal fisheries occur. Larger kings (heavier than 20 lb or 9 kg) often occur inshore, in the mouths of inlets and harbors, and occasionally even at the 600 foot (180 m) depths at the edge of the Gulf Stream.