King Mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla: The King Mackerel has a long thin body that is typically dark blue to black dorsally, with iridescent areas of blue and green spots with silver to whitish sides. Immature fish have yellow to yellow-orange spots on their sides. The King Mackerel has two dorsal fins separated by a deep notch and a series of 7 to 10 finlets posterior of the anal and second dorsal fins. The caudal fin is deeply forked and lunate.
The King Mackerel has a lateral line that curves sharply towards the abdomen just below the second dorsal fin, a key to identification. It has a large oblique mouth armed with 30 triangular sharp teeth on both sides. The King Mackerel reaches a maximum of five-and-a-half feet in length and up to 100 pounds, and has a life span of 11 years.
The King Mackerel can be confused with the Cero Mackerel, Scomberomorus regalis, and the Spanish Mackerel, Scomberomorus maculates, but the unique lateral line, larger size and fewer gill rakers (6 to 10) make differentiation from these species facile.
This fish species is a pelagic carnivore that feeds primarily on crustaceans (squid and shrimp) and small schooling fishes (anchovies, menhaden, sardines, etc.). In turn it is preyed upon by dolphin, sharks and tuna.
The King Mackerel is an Atlantic Ocean only species found from the Gulf of Maine to Brazil along the Atlantic coast of the Americas in offshore waters outwards to the continental shelf. The King Mackerel is considered to be an important commercial and recreational species in the southern United States in states that border the Gulf of Mexico. In Mexican fishing waters, it is called "peto." Recreational anglers catch this species year-round, however most taken in the winter and early spring.
The King Mackerel is one of the more common and feisty members of the Scombridae family, which includes bonitos, mackerels and tunas and known in Mexico as macarelas.