King Mackerel Regulations

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 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 -

Atlantic Migratory Group King Mackerel:

Commercial

OPEN

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 details, please see the CFR

  • Atlantic Northern Zone (NY/CT/RI line to the NC/SC line): 3,500 lbs
  • Atlantic Southern Zone (NC/SC line to the Miami-Dade/Monroe county line, FL):
    • North of the Flagler/Volusia line: 3,500 pounds year-round.
    • South of the Flagler/Volusia line to the Volusia/Brevard line:
      • March 1 – March 31 (Season 1): 75-fish
      • April 1 – September 30 (Season 1): 3,500 pounds
      • October 1 – January 31 (Season 2): 50-fish**
      • February 1 – end of February (Season 2): 50-fish, unless NMFS determines that less than 70% of the Season 2 quota has been landed, then, 75-fish.**
    • South of the Volusia/Brevard line to the Miami-Dade/Monroe line:
      • March 1 – March 31 (Season 1): 75-fish
      • April 1 – September 30 (Season 1): 75-fish, unless NMFS determines that 75% or more of the Season 1 quota has been landed, then, 50-fish
      • October 1 – January 31 (Season 2): 50-fish**
      • February 1 – end of February (Season 2): 50-fish, unless NMFS determines that less than 70% of the Season 2 quota has been landed, then, 75-fish.**
  • ** Temporary rule in effect: October 1, 2019, through February 29, 2020 raising the trip limit to 75-fish

  • Limited incidental catch allowance for vessels with a valid commercial king mackerel permit AND a valid Atlantic commercial shark directed permit caught as bycatch in the directed shark gillnet fishery
    • Atlantic Northern Zone: 3 king mackerel per crew member may be retained and sold per trip
    • Atlantic Southern Zone: 2 king mackerel per crew member may be retained and sold per trip
  • Purse seine incidental catch of king mackerel cannot exceed 1% of the total catch on board (by weight or number of fish).

 

Regulatory Remarks:

  • If fishing South of the Miami-Dade/Monroe county line, FL, you must adhere to regulations for the Gulf Southern Zone - Click here to learn more
  • A limited access commercial permit for king mackerel required.
  • Season opens March 1st and closes the 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.
    • Cut-off (damaged) fish that comply with the minimum size limit and applicable trip limits may be possessed, offloaded and sold.
    • A maximum of five additional undersized, cut-off (damaged) fish not subject to the trip limit may be possessed and offload but may not be sold.
    • 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.

Additional Information: 

  • A Fishery Performance Report is available for this species - click here!

Recreational

OPEN

Size Limit: 24-inch fork length

Bag Limit:

  • Georgia through New York: 3 per person
  • Florida: 2 per person (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 Miami-Dade/Monroe county line, FL, you must adhere to regulations for the Gulf 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 Atlantic Coastal Migratory Pelagics and must comply with bag limits.
  • Persons on charter boats on trips of more than 24 hours may possess up to but no more than 2 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 ACLsfrom NOAA Fisheries.

Additional Information: 

  • A Fishery Performance Report is available for this species - click here!