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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Spanish Mackerel

Marine Fisheries

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Spanish Mackerel
Spanish Mackerel

Scomberomorus maculatus

AKA: Spanish

Description: Spanish mackerel have greenish backs with silvery sides and belly. Golden yellow spots above and below the lateral line cover the sides of the body. The front of the first dorsal fin is black. The lateral line curves gently to the base of the tail and the body is covered with tiny scales.

Size: Spanish mackerel grow to 37 inches and 12 pounds, but most catches range between 14 and 18 inches and 1 and 3 pounds. Citations are given for fish weighing 6 pounds or more.

Sometimes confused with: juvenile king mackerel

Habitat: Spanish mackerel live in open waters near the coast from the Gulf of Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula, migrating north and south with water temperatures. They may be found in the sounds or mouths of rivers in the summer.

Eating habits: Spanish mackerel feed on small fish, such as anchovies, sardines, threadfin herring and silversides, as well as shrimp and squid.

Life cycle: Spanish mackerel spawn in the ocean at night from May to September. They reach sexual maturity at about age 2 and can live as long as 12 years.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch Spanish mackerel from the surf, piers and boats, with almost any small, shiny metal lure or jig retrieved or trolled quickly. Large Spanish mackerel are often caught by fishermen slow-trolling live bait for king mackerel.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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