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What Is a King Mackerel?

Sport fishermen are allowed to catch a limited number of king mackerel.
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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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The king mackerel is a medium size fish which ranges in weight from five pounds to thirty pounds. The primary habitat of the king mackerel is the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. King mackerel have specific attributes including very small scales and traceable migratory habits, and are of use in both the recreational and commercial fishing industry.

King mackerel have distinguishing characteristics. It has small scales and is gray along the back and silver on the belly region. While the majority of these type of fish are medium sized fish, they can grow to be as large as 100 pounds.

Commercial and recreational fishermen will find them hiding out in the waters along coastlines. This includes areas from Brazil up to Massachusetts in the Atlantic Ocean, and areas around Texas and Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. Typically this fish prefers to stay near the coastline at a minimum depth of approximately 115 feet.

The migration patterns of the king mackerel have much to do with the season. When the waters begin to get cold they migrate towards warmer waters. During winter in the Massachusetts area, for instance, the fish begins to head south to summer in the warm waters off the coast of Brazil. They travel in large schools of fish during migration season.

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In addition to migrating to warmer waters, these fish also base movements on the availability of the food supply. King mackerel typically prey on squid, smaller fish, and shrimp. Smaller juvenile fish can also be found preying on larval fish.

Recreational fishermen tend to catch this type of fish with a traditional hook and line. This may include the use of artificial lures, bait fish, and heavier tackle gear. The fish is currently not being overfished and has a sustainable population throughout all of their traditional habitats.

Commercial fishing operations must adhere to regulations established under the Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This includes restrictions on how many fish they can catch and what size fish they are allowed to keep. Entry into the commercial king mackerel fishing industry is limited by the FMP and requires application approval and regular inspections.

King mackerel are typically considered a healthy addition to a person’s diet. They are high in protein and low in fat, as are most fish. Pregnant women, young kids, and women trying to conceive should avoid eating the fish because of the mercury levels.

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