Mackerel: What You Didn’t Know About

mackerel is any one of a number of different species of fish, mostly in the family Scombridae. They occur in all tropical and temperate seas. Most live offshore in the oceanic environment but a few, like the Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus) enter bays and can be caught near bridges and piers. The largest mackerel is the king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla) which can grow to 66 inches (168 cm).

They are easily identified by having a slim, cylindrical shape (as opposed to the tunas which are deeper bodied) and numerous finlets on the dorsal and ventral sides behind the dorsal and anal fins. The scales are extremely small, if present. They are prized for their meat and fighting ability, and are an important recreational and commercial fishery. In the tropics, the meat can spoil quickly, causing scombroid food poisoning.

Mackerel species:

  • Atka mackerel Pleurogrammus azonus
  • Atlantic horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus
  • Atlantic mackerelScomber scombrus
  • Atlantic Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus maculatus
  • Australian spotted mackerel Scomberomorus munroi
  • Blue jack mackerel Trachurus picturatus
  • Blue mackerel Scomber australasicus
  • Broadbarred king mackerel Scomberomorus semifasciatus
  • Cape horse mackerel Trachurus capensis
  • Chub mackerel Scomber japonicus
  • Cunene horse mackerel Trachurus trecae
  • Double-lined mackerel Grammatorcynus bilineatus
  • Greenback horse mackerel Trachurus declivis
  • Indian mackerel Rastrelliger kanagurta
  • Indo-Pacific king mackerel Scomberomorus guttatus
  • Island mackerel Rastrelliger faughni
  • Japanese jack mackerel Trachurus japonicus
  • Japanese Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus niphonius
  • King mackerel Scomberomorus cavalla
  • Mediterranean horse mackerel Trachurus mediterraneus

The snake mackerels are a separate family Gempylidae.

Species called just “mackerel” in various countries:

  • Atlantic mackerel Scomber scombrus
  • Bigeye scad Selar crumenophthalmus
  • Blue runner Caranx crysos
  • Butterfly kingfish Gasterochisma melampus
  • Cero Scomberomorus regalis
  • Chub mackerel Scomber japonicus
  • Double-lined mackerel Grammatorcynus bilineatus
  • Indian mackerel Rastrelliger kanagurta
  • Indo-Pacific king mackerel Scomberomorus guttatus
  • Leatherjack Oligoplites saurus
  • Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus commerson
  • Shark mackerel Grammatorcynus bicarinatus
  • West African Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus tritor

“Mackerel” is also used as an adjective in the vernacular names of other types of fish, often used to indicate types with a mackerel-like pattern of vertical stripes:

  • Mackerel icefish – Champsocephalus gunnari
  • Mackerel pike – Cololabis saira
  • Mackerel scad – Decapterus macarellus
  • Mackerel shark – several species
  • Sharp-nose mackerel shark – Isurus oxyrinchus
  • Mackerel trevalla – Seriolella punctata
  • Mackerel tuna – Euthynnus affinis
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