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Different Species of Mackerel for Anglers to Target

Mackerels are ubiquitous water creatures and among the people’s favorite fish worldwide.

a school of mackerel

There are around 30 different species in the mackerel family, Scombridae, meaning true mackerels.

These fish are pelagic, which means they do not live near the shore or at the bottom of the sea. Hence, mackerels typically live in the open ocean.

Mackerels are easy to spot. Most mackerels have thin, cylindrical bodies, no matter their sizes. One of the most noticeable features that you will see in all mackerels is the presence of black stripes on their backs. 

a single spanish mackerel

Research shows that these stripes help the fish stay together as a large school, and without the lines, they might lose each other in the fast-moving waters. Read along to explore some of the most common types of mackerel found in the waters.

King Mackerel

The king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla) is the largest fish among all the different species of mackerel.

It is commonly found on the Atlantic coast, the Bay of Bengal, and parts of the Indian Ocean. The fish has a silver belly and is grayish-teal from the back. 

As their name suggests, the mackerel fish can grow huge, up to 5.5 long and 100 pounds in weight.

However, the king mackerels found commonly are around 32 pounds on average. Most adult king mackerels do not have spotted bellies but a lateral line, dipping sharply at the midsection.

Spanish Mackerel

Also known as the spotted mackerel, the Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus) typically dwell in the waters of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

holding a spanish Mackerel

They migrate along the coast to the Mexican Gulf in the summers and return in the cooler months. 

Like the King mackerel, the back of Spanish mackerels is also teal, but the fins are prominently darker with silver bellies and sides. 

However, unlike the other types of mackerels, their sizes are relatively small, growing up to 14 pounds in weight and 3 feet in length. It is pretty easy to spot these fish because olive-gold spots are on their sides.

Atlantic Mackerel

The Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is also known as Boston mackerels or common mackerels.

They swim in gigantic schools along the Northern Atlantic ocean waters. They have a streamlined body and a forked tail with metallic blue hues above and a pearl white color below. 

The most distinguishing feature of the Atlantic mackerels is the presence of zebra-like black stripes that fade out immediately when the fish dies.

The approximate size of Atlantic mackerels is only 1 to 2 feet in length and 2 to 4 pounds heavy.

Cero Mackerel

Commonly found in the Caribbean Sea and sometimes in the Mexican Gulf, cero mackerels (Scomberomorus regalis) are referred to as the tropical cousin of Spanish mackerels.

They look similar to the Spanish mackerels, with bluish-green backs, silver bellies, and sides. However, they may also have light pink streaks on their more delicate areas.

The only significant difference between cero mackerels and Spanish mackerels is that the former have bronze stripes on the center of their bodies and yellow spots like Spanish mackerels. They typically grow up to1.5 feet and 6 to12 pounds.

Sierra Mackerel

The Sierra mackerels (Scomberomorus sierra) are commonly known as Mexican and Pacific sierra, dwelling along the shores of Southern California to Central America.

Like the Spanish mackerels, these fish are greenish-bronze on the dorsal area, while their dorsal fins are predominantly black.

In contrast, the second fin is orange in color, which is their distinguishing characteristic. 

The unique features of the sierra mackerel include their knife-like sharp teeth, which they use to prey on herrings, anchovies, and sardines. The sierra mackerel family grows up to 3 feet long, with 8 to 10 lbs in weight.

Jack Mackerel

The jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus) is often known as Pacific mackerels because they are commonly found in abundance in the North and East Pacific Oceans.

You can find them dwelling in Alaska, Baja California, and sometimes in the Gulf of Mexico.

Like Atlantic mackerels, jacks are also relatively small, typically growing 2 feet long on average and only up to 4 pounds in weight. 

They are greenish-blue on the above while silverish-gray on the belly area. Their fins are usually dusky to hyaline, while the caudal fin may appear orange as its unique, distinctive feature.

Chub Mackerel

Sometimes called the tinker mackerels, Chub mackerels (scomber colias) are found throughout the Atlantic Ocean in enormous schools. However, they are also present in the Black Sea and the South Mediterranean Sea in abundance. 

The appearance of the chub mackerel family closely resembles the Atlantic mackerels, having similar black stripes on their teal backs.

The only difference is that these stripes are relatively lighter than those of Atlantic mackerels and the bellies are very pale white. 

The distinctive feature of the chub mackerels is that these fishes have huge bulging eyes and a beige, forked tail with a black outline and tips.

These mackerels are also relatively tiny, with only 3-6 lbs in weight and 9-15 inches in length.


Though being the most different-looking fish in the mackerel family, the Wahoo ( Acanthocybium solandri) is a close relative to Spanish and king mackerels.

a wahoo caught with live bait

It is a highly popular sporting fish, native to the tropical and sub-tropical American coastal waters. 

Their appearance sets them apart from the other mackerels in the family as they are blue, with slender, elongated bodies, with prominent vertical stripes. 

They have big mouths which occupy half of their heads’ length, giving them a bird-like appearance when opened. The wahoo is a large fish, and its size can reach up to 8 feet in length and 160 lbs heavy.

Final Thoughts

There are various other types of mackerels found worldwide, but the ones mentioned above are found most commonly.

These fish are an excellent seafood staple globally and a great catch and release fish for sports anglers. 

As ocean predators, mackerels are essential parts of the food chain, as they primarily feed on anchovies, sardines, and herrings, thus keeping their populations balanced.

Types of Mackerel

  1. King Mackerel
  2. Spanish Mackerel
  3. Atlantic Mackerel
  4. Cero Mackerel
  5. Sierra Mackerel
  6. Jack Mackerel
  7. Chub Mackerel
  8. Wahoo

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