King mackerel, or kingfish, is a popular sport fish in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond this migratory species of mackerel’s popularity as a sport fish, they are predators, meaning they hunt a wide range of prey, including smaller fish, squid, and crustaceans. These medium-sized fish’s distinctive appearance and behavior have made them a significant subject of discussion among marine biologists and anglers. This article has been designed to help you understand king mackerel better and discover better ways to preserve the ocean. So, let’s dive into the world of this unique species of mackerel and discover what makes them a center of interest.


King mackerel is a medium-sized fish that typically grows up to 5.5 feet and weighs 100 pounds. The fish’s slender body is covered with small and hardly visible scales, which give them a silvery appearance with iridescent blue-green or dark blue stripes running along the sides. This dark coloration can gradually fade to a lighter shade on their sides, covered in a series of black spots.

King mackerels also have a streamlined shape, which makes them speedy swimmers. Besides, they have sharp, razor-like teeth for catching and holding onto prey.

King mackerels have streamlined, slender bodies and silver-colored skin with dark stripes running down their backs
King mackerels have streamlined, slender bodies and silver-colored skin with dark stripes running down their backs

The dorsal fin of a king mackerel is set far back on the body and is composed of spines followed by a series of soft rays, which helps to provide stability and maneuverability to the fish as it moves through the water.

The tail is also deeply forked, which is good news since it allows the fish to move quickly and efficiently.


King mackerel are primarily found in the Americas’ Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, from North Carolina to Brazil. Occasionally, you can spot them on the Eastern coast of India, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabia Sea. Nonetheless, these species prefer warm waters with temperatures between 68 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 29 degrees Celsius). In other words, the temperature can limit the fish’s distribution.

The Kingfish is most commonly found near the water’s surface (12 to 45 meters deep). However, you will likely get larger ones, heavier than 9 kg, in the mouth of harbors and inlets. Also, you can occasionally find them at depths of up to approximately 200 feet.

Since king mackerel are a migratory fish, you can spot them in different areas depending on the season. For example, you can see fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico in the summer. In the winter, they move south to the warmer Caribbean and South American waters.


King mackerel feed on small fish such as sardines, herring, and menhaden. They also feed on squid and crustaceans. The fish are opportunistic feeders. So, you can spot some following schools of smaller fish and attack them from below.


King Mackerel reach sexual maturity at around two years of age. They typically spawn in the spring and summer, with females releasing thousands of eggs into the water column. The eggs are small and transparent, measuring around 1 mm in diameter. Moreover, they are buoyant and drift with ocean currents until hatching into larvae after a few days.

The larvae eventually develop into juvenile fish, which grow quickly in their first year. Juvenile king mackerel typically spend the first few months of their lives near the water’s surface. They feed on plankton and other tiny organisms before gradually moving to deeper waters as they grow.


King Mackerel face many threats. Overfishing is a significant concern, as these fish are famous commercial and recreational sea creatures. They are also caught as bycatch in other fisheries, such as shrimp trawling. Habitat loss and degradation, caused by coastal development and pollution, threaten their populations. Despite these threats, the kingfish are not a threatened species.

Facts About King Mackerel

  1. King mackerel are a large, fast-swimming fish in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
  2. They are known for their silver body with blue-green or dark blue stripes running along the sides.
  3. King mackerel are carnivorous, feeding primarily on small fish such as sardines, herring, and menhaden.
  4. They are opportunistic feeders, often attacking schools of smaller fish from below.
  5. King mackerel are migratory, moving to different areas depending on the season.
  6. They reach sexual maturity at around two years of age and spawn in the spring and summer months.
  7. King mackerel are a popular game fish, prized by recreational fisheries for their speed and power.


Are mackerel and king mackerel the same species of fish?

No, mackerel and king mackerel are not the same fish species but are members of the same family of fish, Scombridae.
Mackerel are found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and typically measure less than a foot long. Conversely, king mackerel can grow up to 5.5 feet. It is also found in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Are king mackerel dangerous to humans?

No, king mackerel are not typically dangerous to humans, but they have sharp teeth that can cause injury if you threaten their lives. Additionally, pollution of our oceans can leave deposits of mercury inside king mackerel. So, you are safe if you respectfully handle king mackerel and consume it in small quantities.

How do you catch king mackerel?

King Mackerel are typically caught using live bait, such as sardines or herring, or lures that mimic small fish. They are known for their speed and power, so it is essential to use heavy tackle and be prepared for an intense fight. Also, remember that this fish can use its teeth to defend itself once they notice there are under attack.

What is the best time of year to catch king mackerel?

King mackerel are typically caught in the summer and fall months. This is the time when they are most active and available in abundance. However, various factors, including water temperature and prey availability, can affect their movements. So, it is important to check local fishing reports and consult with local experts for the best times and locations to fish.

Are king mackerel sustainable to eat?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified king mackerel as a species of “least concern.” This classification indicates that their populations are stable and not endangered. However, as with any seafood, choosing sustainably sourced king mackerel is crucial for minimizing the environmental impact.

About Ocean Info

At Ocean Info, we dive deep into ocean-related topics such as sealife, exploration of the sea, rivers, areas of geographical importance, sailing, and more.

We achieve this by having the best team create content - this ranges from marine experts, trained scuba divers, marine-related enthusiasts, and more.

Sea Anemone with Clownfish

Dive into more, the ocean is more than just a surface view

Bottlenose dolphins are known to help stranded humans back to the shore

8 of the Most Intelligent Marine Animals

From dolphins' awe-inspiring communication skills to orcas' social complexity, the ocean is home to some of the most intelligent marine animals.