King Mackerel fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
The king mackerel is a migratory species of mackerel of the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. It is an important species to both the commercial and recreational fishing industries. The king mackerel is a medium-sized fish, typically encountered from five to 30 pounds, but is known to exceed 90 pounds. These fish have scales, but they are very loosely attached to their bodies. They are often silver with a white underbelly. Smaller fish tend to have brown spots on their sides.
The King Mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla, is a mackerel of the Scombridae family, also known as kingfish, carite or carito, carite lucio, cavalla in Spanish, korolevskaya makrel in Russian, maquereau, thazard barre in French, oo-sawara, sawara in Japanese, sgombro reale in Italian is a subtropical species of the Atlantic Coast of the Americas. They are common in the coastal zone from North Carolina to Brazil, from Massachusetts to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico, and occasionally as far north as the Gulf of Maine.
The King Mackerel is elongate, compressed and fusiform. Its body is about five times the size of its head, and about six times as long as it is deep. Two dorsal fins are present, separated by a deep notch between them. A series of 7 - 10 finlets (usually 10) lie posterior to the second dorsal fin and to the anal fin on the ventral surface. The lateral line starts high on the shoulder, dips abruptly at mid-body just below the second dorsal fin and then continues as a wavy horizontal line to the tail.
The caudal peduncle is thin and has a fleshy keel. The caudal fin is lunate. The mouth is large and set obliquely, with the maxillary reaching to just below the orbit of eye. The jaw bears 30 triangular teeth on each side. Its cutting-edged teeth are large, uniform, closely spaced and flattened from side to side. These teeth look very similar to those of the bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix. The entire body, with the exception of the pectoral fins, is covered with very small, hardly visible, loosely attached scales. The first (spiny) dorsal fin is entirely colorless and is normally folded back into a body groove, as are the pelvic fins
Distinguishing characteristics: 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. 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.
12 – 18 Dorsal spines
15 - 18 Dorsal soft rays
16 - 20 Anal soft rays
41 - 43 Vertebrae.
Maximum length: 3 - 5.6 ft (0.9 - 1.7 m)
Maximum weight: 99 lbs (45 kg)
Coloration is olive, dark blue to black dorsally on the back, fading to silver with a rosy iridescence on the sides, with iridescent areas of blue and green, fading to white on the belly. Fish under 10 pounds (5 kg) are marked laterally with yellowish-brown to yellow-orange spots in 5 or 6 irregular rows on the flanks, somewhat smaller than the spots of the Atlantic Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus. ). The spots are fading as the fish matures. Interpelvic process small and bifid. Swim bladder absent. Intestine with 2 folds and 3 limbs.
Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel is similar in appearance to Wahoo. They have less dorsal fin spines (15-18 compared with 23-27), the second dorsal fin is located closer to the centre of the body and they have a more prominent fork in their tail. Bars are irregular, in part wavy and broken in spots, which is an exclusive characteristic of this species (West African Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus tritor has only spots, more or less round, on the flanks).
Small king mackerel are similar in appearance to Atlantic Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus, and cero mackerel, Scomberomorus regalis, all three species being similar in shape and coloration. It is easily distinguished from these by its unique characteristics.
The lateral line on Atlantic Spanish mackerel and cero slopes gradually from the top edge of the gill to the tail. In contrast, that of the king mackerel curves sharply downward towards the abdomen at the second dorsal fin at mid-body.
The first (spiny) dorsal fin on Atlantic Spanish mackerel and cero has a prominent black patch. The king mackerel does not. As all three species normally keep the first dorsal folded back in a body groove, this difference is not immediately evident.
Atlantic Spanish mackerel have prominent yellow spots on the flanks at all sizes. In addition to such spots, cero have one or more yellow stripes along the centerline. Young king mackerel have similar, but slightly smaller spots; these fade away on individuals weighing over 10 pounds (5 kg), but may still be seen as slightly darker green spots toward the back from some angles of view.
The king mackerel prefers outer reefs and coastal waters during the warmest summer months in depths between 40 to 150 feet (12–45 m). Larger kings (heavier than 20 lb or 9 kg) often occur inshore, in the mouths of inlets and harbors, and occasionally even at the 600-foot (180-m) depths at the edge of the Gulf Stream. The king mackerel prefer water temperatures in the range of 68 to 85 °F (20 to 29 °C). Larvae are encountered in surface waters of 26.3° to 31°C and 26.9 to 35 ppt.
Dependent upon warm temperatures, king mackerel can migrate along the east coast of the U.S. Large groups of king mackerels, an Atlantic groups, aggregate along the coast of North and South Carolina throughout the spring, summer and fall of the year. In southern and southeastern Florida, king mackerel are found year-round. This group migrates to southeast Florida, where it spawns from May through August, and slowly returns through summer. Apparently, this group winters in deep water off the Carolinas, as tagging studies have shown they are never found off Florida in winter.
Large Gulf of Mexico group are also observed during summer months in northern areas of the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas through northwestern Florida. This group returns to southern Florida during winter months, from November through March. Spawning occurs throughout the summer off the northern Gulf Coast.
King mackerel are voracious, opportunistic carnivores. They feed primarily on schooling sardine-like fish (Clupeidae), jacks (Carangidae), cutlassfish (Trichiuridae), weakfish (Sciaenidae), grunts (Haemulidae), striped anchovies (Engraulidae), cigar minnows, threadfin, northern mackerel, jack mackerels, snappers, grunts, halfbeaks and (blue runners). Also they occasionally feed with smaller quantities of penaeid shrimps, crustaceans, mollusks, and squids.
King mackerel feeding depends on prey size, on area and season. 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.
Most females mature by 1 year of age, after reaching approximately 14 in fork length. Male king mackerel mature by 3-4 years of age after reaching approximately 2.4 ft (72 cm) fork length. Fecundity estimates in king mackerel are best correlated with size: weight and length, with 1.5 lbs (0.68 kg), 1.5 ft (47cm) female producing 69,000 eggs, and 56 lbs (25.6 kg), 4.9 ft (1,5 m) female producing 12.2 million eggs over the spawning season.
King mackerel spawn in coastal waters off the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic and have an extended spawning season. Spawning occurs most frequently during May through October, with a peak between late May and early July with another between late July and early August. Eggs and sperm are shed into the sea and their union is by chance. Fertilized eggs hatch in about 24 hours. Like some other fish they are born with a large yolk sack that gives them nutrition for the first part of their lives until they can locate a food source. The newly hatched larva have been found in waters with temperatures between 79-88°F (26-31°C) and is about 0.1 inches (2.5 mm).
Larva of the king mackerel can grow up to 0.02 to 0.05 inches (0.54-1.33 mm) per day. This shortened larval stage decreases the vulnerability of the larva, and is related to the increased metabolism of this fast-swimming species. The larvae can be identified by their large, wide open jaws, well-developed teeth, large eyes, and a pointed snout. The coloration of the brain develops early and retains the color throughout life. The color of the trunk develops at about 0.8 inches (20 mm). The fins remain unpigmented until the fish reaches 1.2 inches (31 mm) in length, with the caudal fin remaining unpigmented.
Yearling fish typically attain an average weight of 3 to 4 pounds (1.4–1.8 kg) and a fork length of 25 inches (60 cm). At age seven, females average 21 lb (9.5 kg), males 11 lb (5 kg). King mackerel may attain 90 lb (40 kg), but any over 15 pounds (7 kg) is almost certainly a female.
King mackerel are among the most favorite gamefish throughout their. Known throughout the sport-fishing world for their blistering runs, the king mackerel matches its distant relative, the wahoo, in speed. They are taken mostly by trolling, using various live and dead baitfish, spoons, jigs and other artificial lures. Commercial gear consists of run-around gill nets. They are also taken commercially by trolling with large planers, heavy tackle and lures similar to those used by sport fishers. Typically when using live bait, two hooks are tied to a strong metal leader. The first may be a treble or single and is hooked through the live bait's nose and/or mouth. The second hook (treble hook) is placed through the top of the fish's back or allowed to swing free. This must be done because king mackerel commonly bite the tail section of a bait fish. When trolling for kings using this method, it is important to make sure the baitfish are swimming properly.
King Mackerel can get quite large weighing in at nearly 100lbs! If you are fishing for these Mackerels you will normally find them in depths of 50 to 150 feet in waters with a temperature range of 68 to 85 °F (20 to 29 °C). Once hooked this sporting fish is said to be one of the best pound for pound fighters in the ocean. Trolling with live baitfish, jigs and spoons are said to produce the most action.