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King Mackerel vs Mackerel- Which Fish Takes The Crown?

king mackerel vs mackerel

Having a hard time differentiating between King Mackerel and Mackerel? Don’t sweat it! We’ve all been there once in our lives. That’s why we’re here to help you out.

When it comes to fishing, there are a lot of different species to choose from. But two of the most popular fish in the ocean are King Mackerel and Mackerel. These two fish are often compared to each other, and people often wonder which one takes the crown. Let’s take a closer look at these fish and see which one comes out on top.

Picking the right fish is easier than rocket science, especially when one has our guide.

King Mackerel

Also known as Kingfish, is a popular game fish that is found in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This fish is known for being a challenging catch, making it a popular target for experienced fishermen. Overview:

Physical Characteristics

  • King Mackerel are large and strong, with an elongated body and streamlined shape that helps them swim quickly through the water.
  • They can grow up to 72 inches in length and weigh over 100 pounds, although most are caught at around 20-30 pounds.
  • The upper part of the body is bluish-green and the sides are silver, with a distinctive lateral line that runs down the length of the body.
  • They have a single dorsal fin that is deeply notched, and a small second dorsal fin towards the tail.
  • Their sharp teeth are designed for feeding on smaller fish, squid, and shrimp.


  • King Mackerel are typically found in open water habitats, such as reefs, wrecks, and offshore structures like oil rigs.
  • They prefer warmer water temperatures, typically between 68-86°F.
  • During the summer months, they migrate north along the Atlantic coast, and then return south during the winter.

Fishing Techniques

Fishing Techniques

  • It is known for their speed and strength, which makes them a challenging catch for even experienced fishermen.
  • Trolling is a popular technique for catching King Mackerel, as they are often found in schools and will strike at fast-moving lures.
  • Live bait is also effective, with common choices including herring, sardines, and mullet.
  • King Mackerel are typically caught using heavy spinning or conventional tackle, as their size and strength requires a sturdy fishing setup.

Culinary Uses

  • King Mackerel is a popular fish for cooking, with a firm, meaty texture and a rich, distinctive taste.
  • It can be grilled, broiled, or baked, and is often served with a variety of seasonings and sauces.
  • King Mackerel is also a popular fish for smoking, and is often used to make fish dip or spread.


Mackerel Fishing Season

Is a popular fish that is found in many different parts of the world, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Overview:

Physical Characteristics

  • Mackerel have an elongated, torpedo-shaped body that is designed for speed and agility in the water.
  • They typically range in size from 8-12 inches, although some species can grow up to 18 inches in length.
  • The upper part of the body is greenish-blue and the sides are silver, with a series of wavy, dark stripes that run down the length of the body.
  • Mackerel have a single dorsal fin that is deeply notched, and a small second dorsal fin towards the tail.
  • Their sharp teeth are designed for feeding on smaller fish, squid, and shrimp.


  • Mackerel are found in a variety of habitats, including coastal waters, estuaries, and open ocean environments.
  • They prefer cooler water temperatures, typically between 45-60°F, and are often found in areas with strong currents.
  • Some species of mackerel, such as the Atlantic mackerel, migrate long distances to feed and spawn.

Fishing Techniques

Fishing Techniques

  • Mackerel are a popular fish for recreational anglers and commercial fishermen alike, with a variety of techniques used to catch them.
  • Jigging is a popular technique for catching mackerel, as well as trolling with lures and live bait.
  • Mackerel are typically caught using light to medium spinning or conventional tackle, as they do not grow to be as large as other game fish.

Culinary Uses

  • Mackerel is a popular fish for cooking, with a rich, oily flesh and a distinctive taste.
  • It can be grilled, broiled, or baked, and is often served with a variety of seasonings and sauces.
  • Mackerel is also a popular fish for smoking, and is often used to make fish dip or spread.

So which is the better choice, King Mackerel vs Mackerel?

This is overview might be too short for you if you’re a fishing novice. So, feel free to advance to our in-depth discussion on the two fish.

King Mackerel vs Mackerel: A Quick Overview

King Mackerel and Mackerel are similar-looking fishes of two different species. It might be hard for you to tell them apart. So, we’ve made a comparative table to help you differentiate:

Factors King mackerel Mackerel
Size About 19.7-35.4 inches About 12 inches
Location Found between Brazil to North Carolina Commonly found in the US East Coast
Edibility Unsafe to eat Safe to eat
Season Winter-spring Late spring-summer
Identifying characters Pronounced dip in lateral line Gradual slope in lateral line
Price About $20 About $1.10-$1.40


King Mackerel vs Mackerel

Basic information clearly isn’t enough for you to decide which Mackerel to catch. Before rushing with your lures to catch some fish, take a look at the details-


Size is a great factor to differentiate between the two shoaling fishes! The King Mackerel is a large and majestic fish. It usually has a size of 19.7-35.4 inches (50-85 cm). The average weight of the King Mackerel is 10-20 pounds. However, it does have the potential to reach 180 cm and 70-90 pounds.

The Mackerel, on the other hand, is much smaller. It has an average size of 12 inches and a weight of 7 pounds.


Locating your desired fish is important prior to jump in with your fishing rods. The King Mackerel are usually found between Brazil and North Carolina. They occur in between depths of 22-33m.

On the other hand, Mackerel is common on the US East Coast. They’re found in areas like Cape Cod, Florida, Maryland, and the northern Gulf Coast. Mackerels tend to occur in depths less than 200m. You can use a navigator app like Cmap or Navionics to easily find them.


Edibility is a factor where King Mackerel and Mackerel differ. The King Mackerel is said to be inedible or toxic by many. Even the governments of some countries have requested their people to avoid eating King Mackerel. This is because King Mackerel contains 0.73 ppm of organic mercury.

Unfortunately, the mercury can’t be removed by cooking the King Mackerel. Moreover, it’s hard to avoid fishes with mercury due to the lack of proper guidelines. However, the Mackerel has a low amount of 0.16 ppm mercury in it. But too much of anything is bad, so avoid eating too much Mackerel at once.


King Mackerel are usually found in markets throughout the year. But if you want to catch your own King Mackerel, winter or spring is the best time. During this season or the months of November to March, you’ll find King Mackerel in plenty.

Mackerel, on the other hand, is available during late spring and summer.  This means the months of May-June are a great time to catch some Mackerel. So, grab your fishing rod with a lever drag or star drag, and get fishing!

King Mackerel vs Mackerel - Season

Identifying Characters

King Mackerel are normally big in size and olive green in color. They have white bellies and slim bodies. They have a lateral line that drops profoundly near the first dorsal fin. The dorsal spine is light-colored and more relaxed. Young King Mackerel usually have elliptical yellow or golden spots that fade over time.

Conversely, the mackerel has a slightly green-colored back and silver sides. It has a lateral line that evenly slopes down to the tail from the gill. The dorsal spine is usually dark or black-colored. Adult Mackerel are known to have elliptical yellowish spots.

Be sure to fold your boat’s bimini top and keep it away before fishing. Because bright light makes the identification process easier.


The price of King Mackerel is a bit on the expensive side. King Mackerel cost $20 per pound. If you order at a restaurant, it might cost you more. Mackerel, on the other hand, is really cheap. Its prices usually start from $1.10 and don’t tend to go over $1.40. But if you’re catching it instead of buying it then both the fish are inexpensive!

Final Decision

Still having a hard time deciding? Allow us to assist you. We recommend you go for the King Mackerel if you want to impress your family. Its size and weight can impress anybody and everybody.

If your purpose is to eat the fish, go for Mackerel. Yes, it’s small, but it’s a safe and inexpensive choice. We hope you’ll weigh the pros and cons and then decide upon a fish.


Mackerel Season - FAQs

1. Is kingfish the same as king mackerel?

Yes, kingfish and king mackerel are indeed the same fish. There are other fish out there that are called Kingfish. So, you have to learn how to differentiate them according to their physical traits.

2. Can I get mercury poisoning from fish?

Yes, you can. Many fish have high levels of organic mercury or methylmercury. And eating those fish in high amounts can cause mercury poisoning.

3. Which fish has the least amount of mercury?

There are 5 commonly eaten fish that have low mercury levels. They are salmon, shrimp, pollock, light tuna, and catfish.

4. Is kingfish a healthy fish to eat?

Kingfish is low in calories, high in nutrients, and has many health benefits. Some of them are: It is enriched with Omega-3.


Both King Mackerel and Mackerel have their own unique qualities that make them popular among fishermen and seafood lovers. Whether you’re an experienced angler or just looking to catch a few fish for dinner, both of these fish are great options. So why not try them both and see which one takes the crown for you? Happy fishing!

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