King Mackerel

King Mackerel

King Mackerel

Scomberomorus cavalla

AKA:

Kingfish, Cavalla, King, Snakes, Smokers

Managed by:

SAFMC, GMFMC


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 lateral line which on Spanish dips sharply and also has gray coloration on the anterior dorsal fin; 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 - 

FACT SHEET - Recent Regulatory Changes for Mackerels & Cobia (February 2016)

Commercial:

  • 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:
    • For complete regulations for mackerel, see Making Sense of Mackerel on the NOAA Fisheries SERO page. 
    • From NY to Flagler/Volusia County (FL): April 1 – March 31, the trip limit is 3,500 pounds.
    • From Flagler/Volusia to Volusia/Brevard county lines: April 1 – October 31, the trip limit is 3,500 pounds.
    • From the Volusia/Brevard to Miami-Dade/ Monroe County lines: April 1 – October 31, the trip limit is 75 fish.
    • From the Flagler/Volusia to Miami-Dade/ Monroe County lines:
      • November 1 – March 31, the trip limit is 50 fish.
      • Starting March 1, if less than 70% of the Florida East Coast subzone quota has been taken, the trip limit is 75 fish until March 31
    • For information on Gulf king mackerel allocations affecting the east coast of Florida, contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division at 727-824-5305).
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • For complete regulations for mackerel, see Making Sense of Mackerel on the NOAA Fisheries SERO page. 
    • Commercial permit for king mackerel required.
    • Season opens March 1 and closes end of February or when quota is filled.
    • For Eastern zone-Florida east coast subzone: Harvest is limited to 50 fish during the period of November 1 - January 31. NOTE - Change to regulation - Beginning on March 1 through March 31trip limit is 75 fish if less than 70% of quota has been taken; trip limit is 50 fish if greater than 70% of quota has been taken (effective December 19, 2014 through CMP Framework Action 2013).
    • For the area in Florida between the Volusia/Brevard and Miame-Dade/Monroe County boundaries king mackerel are considered part of the Atlantic group form April 1 through October 31.
    • 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. A minimum size of 4.75 inch stretch mesh is required for run-around gillnets. No more than 400,000 pounds may be harvested by purse seines.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Commercial ACLs (quotas) from NOAA Fisheries.
  • Additional Updates:
    • For information on Gulf king mackerel allocations affecting the east coast of Florida, contact NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office (SERO) at 727-824-5305.
    • For additional information on king and Spanish mackerel, visit NOAA Fisheries SERO - Making Sense of Mackerel.

Recreational:

  • Size Limit: 24-inch fork length
  • Trip 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:
    • Must be landed with heads and fins intact.
    • Charterboat/headboat operators must possess a vessel permit for Coastal Migratory Pelagics and must comply with bag limits.
    • Persons on charterboats 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: