King Mackerel Regulations

King Mackerel

King Mackerel

Scomberomorus cavalla


Kingfish, Cavalla, King, Snakes, Smokers

Managed by:


Physical description:

Color of back iridescent bluish green or iron-gray, sides and belly silvery with pale to dusky fins; streamlined body with tapered head; distinguished from Spanish mackerel by the Spanish mackerel's lateral line, which dips sharply. The anterior dorsal fin on a Spanish mackerel is gray in coloration; young fish often have yellowish spots like those of Spanish mackerel.

Biological description:

King mackerel prefer warm waters, and seldomly enter waters below 68° F. The affinity for warm water and the availability of food result in extensive migrations along the southeastern United States, south in the fall and north in the spring. They are caught as far north as the Gulf of Maine, but more often from Virginia south to Brazil, including the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. King mackerel spawn from April to November, with males maturing between their second and third year, and females between their third and fourth year. Largest of the mackerels, the king mackerel may reach a length of 5.5 feet and weigh 100 pounds. They feed on other migratory fishes, squid, and shrimp, and may be seen leaping out of the water in pursuit of prey.

South Atlantic Federal Regulations -



New regulations, as per CMP Framework Amendment 26, effective May 11, 2017. Please see Code of Federal Regulations Section 622.189 and 622.385.

Size Limit: 24-inch fork length; Fishermen may possess undersized king mackerel less than or equal to 5% by weight of the king mackerel onboard.

Trip Limit:

  • If fishing South of the Monroe/Miami-Dade county line, you must adhere to regulations for the Gulf Group Southern Zone - Click here to learn more
  • Atlantic Northern Zone: 3500 lbs
  • Atlantic Southern Zone:
    • North of Flagler/Volusia county line:  3500 lbs (year round when the fishery is open)
    • South of Flagler/Volusia county line to Monroe/Miami-Dade county line: 75 king mackerel
      • March 1-March 31: 50 king mackerel
      • After March 31: 75 king mackerel for the remainder of season one, unless NMFS determines that 75% or more of the quota has been landed, then, 50 fish.
      • Season Two: 50 king mackerel, except that beginning on February 1, if less than 70% of Season Two has been landed, the trip limit will be 75 king mackerel
  • "(a) King mackerel—(1) Atlantic migratory group. The following trip limits apply to vessels for which commercial permits for king mackerel have been issued, as required under §622.370(a)(1):
    • For details, please see the CFR
  • Limited incidental catch allowance for Atlantic king mackerel caught as bycatch in shark gillnet fishery
    • Northern Zone: 3 king mackerel per crew member per trip from the Atlantic Northern Zone, caught incidentally on shark gillnet trips
    • Southern Zone: 2 king mackerel per crew member per trip from the Atlantic Southern Zone, caught incidentally on shark gillnet trips.
  • Purse seine incidental catch of king mackerel cannot exceed 1% of the total catch on board. No more than 400,000 pounds may be harvested by purse seines.


  •  Regulatory Remarks:
    • Commercial permit for king mackerel required.
    • Season opens March 1 and closes end of February or when quota is filled. Each zone will close when that zone's landings reach the given zone's quota.
    • Commercial split season in the Atlantic Southern Zone:
      • 60% of quota to Season One (March 1 - September 30)
      • 40% of quota to Season Two (October 1 - the end of February)
    • Fish must be landed with heads and fins intact. A permit moratorium is in place.
    • Authorized gear: For Atlantic king mackerel north of the Cape Lookout, NC Light (34° 37.3' N. lat.) all gear is authorized except for drift gillnets and long gillnets. South of the Cape Lookout Light the following gear is authorized: automatic reel, bandit gear, handline, rod & reel.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Commercial ACLs (quotas) from NOAA Fisheries.


  • OPEN
  • Size Limit: 24-inch fork length
  • Bag Limit: 3 per person off Georgia through New York and 2 per person off Florida. (Bag limit in federal waters off Florida same as state bag limit.) Cannot combine state and federal bag limits.
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • If fishing South of Monroe/Miami-Dade county line, you must adhere to regulations for the Gulf Group Southern Zone - click here to learn more
    • Must be landed with heads and fins intact.
    • Charter boat/headboat operators must possess a vessel permit for Coastal Migratory Pelagics and must comply with bag limits.
    • Persons on charter boats on trips of more than 24 hours may possess up to 2 bag limits (see additional information below).
    • King & Spanish Mackerel Multi-day Possession Limit - A person who is on a trip that spans more than 24 hours may possess no more than two daily bag limits, provided: Such trip is aboard a vessel operating as a charter vessel or headboat; The vessel has two licensed operators aboard; Each passenger is issued and has in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel that verifies the length of the trip.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Recreational ACLs from NOAA Fisheries.
  • Additional Updates: