Fish Facts » King Mackerel
Unlike other members of Scomberomorus, the king mackerel lacks a black area on the anterior portion of the first dorsal fin. The king mackerel has 12-18 spines in its first dorsal fin; 15-18 rays in the second dorsal fin, which are followed by 7-10 finlets; and 21-23 pectoral fin rays. Its body is about five times the size of its head, and about six times as long as it is deep. The entire body is covered with rudimentary scales, except for its pectoral fin. The lateral line drops sharply after the second dorsal fin, and then continues on to the tail, distinguishing it from the cero mackerel (Scomberomorus regalis). The king mackerel also lacks scales on the pectoral fins as does the Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), in contrast to the cero mackerel which has scales extending onto the pectoral fin. The king mackerel is a silver fish with indistinct bars or spots on its side. The dorsal surface is black with iridescent tones of blue and green. Young fish have small bronze spots in 5 or 6 irregular rows.
The king mackerel prefers outer reefs and coastal waters. Resident populations are found in northeastern Brazil, Louisiana, and south Florida waters. King mackerels occur in depths between 75.5 - 111.5 feet (23 - 34 m). Dependent upon warm temperatures, king mackerel can migrate along the east coast of the U.S. The Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic populations migrate separately, with the division lines being in Volusia-Flagler counties of southeast Florida in November through March and in Monroe-Collier counties of southwest Florida during April through October.
Like other members of this genus, king mackerel feed primarily on fishes. They prefer to feed on schooling fish, but also eat crustaceans and occasionally mollusks. Some of the fish they eat include jack mackerels, snappers, grunts, and halfbeaks. They also eat penaeid shrimp and squid. Adult king mackerels mainly eat fish between the sizes of 3.9-5.9 inches (100-150 mm). Juveniles eat small fish and invertebrates, especially anchovies. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico populations differ significantly in their feeding habits. The Atlantic stock ate 58% engraulids, 1% clupeids, and 3.1% squid, the Gulf stock consumed 21.4% engraulids, 4.3% clupeids, and 7.1% squid. The Gulf population also showed more diversity in its feeding habits. In south Florida, the king mackerel's food of choice is the ballyhoo. On the east coast of Florida, the king mackerel prefers Spanish sardines, anchovies, mullet, flying fish, drums, and jacks.
The king mackerel is the most important game fish within the genus Scomberomorus, with fishing seasons open April through December off North Carolina and year-round in Florida waters. Recreational catches from U.S. waters are 2-10 times larger than commercial catches. There are commercial fisheries located off Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina. Fishing gear includes hook and line using live bait or trolled lures, and gill nets. The fish is sold as steaks, fresh, canned, or salted.
As the largest species in its genus, the king mackerel grows to 19.7-35.4 inches (50-90 cm) in length. The maximum size reported of the king mackerel is 72.4 inches (184 cm) and 99 pounds (45 kg).
The king mackerel is found along the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean from Massachussetts to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico stocks mix in south Florida waters.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Source(s) on the web