Fish Identification - King Mackerel

Continuing with a royal theme beginning with last week’s queen angelfish, this week’s fish identification article is on the king mackerel.

Physical description

Like all mackerel, the king is a medium sized fish that is long and tube-shaped. They can be small (about 5 pounds) to sizes over 90 pounds, in extreme cases. 5-30 pounds is normal.

They have dorsal spines, but they are hardly visible for two reasons. First, it’s colorless, and second, it is usually receded into a groove, as are their pectoral fins. They have a small dorsal and anal fin that reminds me of a tuna. Their tail fins are deeply forked.

Then tend to be a silver fish with a whitish belly. They can have spots, but these are the dominant colors.

From a distance in low viz I often mistake mackerel for small barracuda. It sounds kinda stupid, but the silvery bodies and long, tubular shape can be deceiving on first glance.

Geography and habitat

King mackerel are found along the Atlantic coasts from North Carolina all the way down to Brazil.

They are usually seen at depths deeper than 40 ft (12 meters). Look for anything from a couple to schools swimming by the shores.

Further reading

Florida Museum of Natural History

Photo by acct-deleted