What is a Mackerel?

Felicia Dye

Mackerel is a term used to refer to certain fish that tend to be found in temperate and moderate waters. However, the term does not refer to a single fish or even a single species of fish. There are dozens of species of fish that fall into this category. Most of these are from the Scombridae family. Other families that include fish in this category are Auxis and Rastrelliger.

Sharks are predators of the mackerel.
Sharks are predators of the mackerel.

Since there are many types of fish considered to be mackerel, it is not possible to give an exact description of their appearance. Most fish in this category, however, are round or torpedo shaped. Many are also characterized by colored bodies with dark irregular stripes and luminous effects. When mackerel have scales, the scales tend to be small and commonly do not cover the head.

Dolphins love to catch and eat mackerel.
Dolphins love to catch and eat mackerel.

Fish in this group are carnivorous. They feed on organisms such as sardines, fish eggs, and small crustaceans. What these fish eat depends on the waters where they are found. Various species of mackerel appear around the globe, including waters off of the coasts of Morocco, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).

Mackerels often feed on sardines.
Mackerels often feed on sardines.

Mackerel travel in large schools that may extend several miles. These fish tend to be concentrated in warmer waters. Since they are surface feeders, during the summer months, it is common to find large schools skimming just below the water’s surface looking for food.

Symptoms of scomboid food poisoning may include headaches.
Symptoms of scomboid food poisoning may include headaches.

Some of these fish have developed a reputation for their abilities to dive deep at quick speeds. This is possible because some of these fish lack swim bladders. Other species, such as the chub, possess swim bladders and do not have such capabilities.

Predators of mackerel include dolphins, sharks, and humans. Humans catch the fish for sport and food. Although humans enjoy the oily meat produced by these fish, serving it commercially is a delicate matter because it quickly spoils.

This constitutes a need for immediate curing. Otherwise, the chances of contracting scomboid food poisoning can be high. This condition is characterized by headaches, cold symptoms, and hives.

These fish reproduce quickly and in large numbers. Spawning generally occurs in April and May. After the spawning period, a single female can release approximately 500,000 eggs that float at the surface of the water. Females of the chub species are believed to be the most fertile mackerel, producing approximately one million eggs at once. Eggs generally hatch in about a week.

Pregnant women should limit their consumption of fish such as mckerel in order to reduce the risk of mercury poisoning.
Pregnant women should limit their consumption of fish such as mckerel in order to reduce the risk of mercury poisoning.

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Discussion Comments

ladyjane

My husband buys bulk amounts of canned mackerel every time he visits our local wholesale club. I know they have a long shelf life but I was wondering if I could remove them from the cans and freeze them. Has anyone ever tried that before? If so, how did you do it and how long can they be kept in the freezer?

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