Text Size: A  A  A

Mackerels

Spanish mackerels have a greenish or bluish back and a silver belly. Their silver sides are covered with oval, brassy spots. (FishWatch)
Spanish mackerels have a greenish or bluish back and a silver belly. Their silver sides are covered with oval, brassy spots. (FishWatch)

Mackerels are fast-swimming fish with elongated, bluish or greenish bodies. They visit the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn while migrating along the Atlantic coast.

Two species of mackerels can be found in the Chesapeake Bay:

  • Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus
  • King mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla

Appearance:

  • Elongated bodies covered in small scales
  • Small finlets running from the dorsal and anal fins to the tail
  • Broadly forked tail fin
  • Sharp, pointed teeth
  • Spanish mackerels have a greenish or bluish back and a silver belly. Their silver sides are covered with oval, brassy spots.
  • King mackerels are bluish-green to gray on the back and silver on the belly. Juveniles have small, bronze spots.
  • Spanish mackerels can grow to 2 feet long. King mackerels are much longer, growing to more than 5 feet long.

Habitat:

  • Live near the surface of the Bay’s open waters, close to the shore
  • King mackerels also live around wrecks, reefs and other hard structures

Range:

  • Spanish mackerels migrate from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay in spring. They enter the Bay by May and leave in autumn to return to Florida.
  • Spanish mackerels are found in the middle and lower Bay. They are most common along Virginia’s western shore and extend at least to the Patuxent River.
  • King mackerels occasionally visit the lower Bay between June-October (peaking in September) while migrating along the Atlantic coast

Feeding:

  • Eat mostly fish such as menhaden and anchovies, but also prey upon shrimp and squid
  • Spanish mackerels hunt by forcing schools of small fish into tight bundles at the surface of the water

Predators:

  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • Sharks
  • Tuna

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawn along the Atlantic coast during warm-weather months
  • Spanish mackerels spawn off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts from late spring through late summer
  • King mackerels spawn over the Atlantic continental shelf from July-September

Other Facts:

Sources and Additional Information:




Click tabs to swap between type and habitat.

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved