OceanAdapt

If King Mackerel is king, are all the others peasants?

By Rachel Berman

The blue-green color of king mackerel is unique to the adults of this species. This mackerel was caught off the coast of Florida. Credit: delphishing

The simple answer is no: one of the other mackerels is called Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus. King mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla, are named such because they are significantly larger than other mackerel within the same genus. The largest king mackerel are female, so maybe they should be renamed Queen Mackerel. A female mackerel that is 1.5lbs and 1.5 feet in length can produce 69,000 eggs, but fecundity increases as females get larger; a female mackerel that is 56 lbs and 4.9 feet can produce 12.2 million eggs during spawning. S. cavalla can be found in the coastal Atlantic waters from New York to Brazil, with a central location in Florida where they can be found year-round. There are two populations of king mackerel, one associated with the Gulf of Mexico and another found migrating up and down the Atlantic coast of the United States following seasonally warm waters. It prefers temperatures of 68-84°F.
King mackerel are known to prey upon small schooling fishes like anchovies and menhaden and to have a greater preference than Spanish mackerel for invertebrate prey like crustaceans and squid. In turn, adult tunny, dolphins and several species of shark prey upon mature king mackerel. While these predators enjoy the mackerel, so do many sporting fishermen. Mackerel have been known to jump out of the water and swim far and fast when hooked. The recreational community surrounding king mackerel is enthusiastic about the good fight these fish put up.
The king mackerel commercial fishery has also thrived for many years and although fluctuations in catch have occurred, the population has never been reported as overfished. The Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils manage the mackerel populations as a coastal migratory pelagic (CMP) species. For information on how populations have shifted location over the decades, check out King Mackerel on the Regional Data section of the OceanAdapt site.

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