The Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus, supports major commercial and sport fisheries along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Spanish mackerel live in the coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, from the Gulf of Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula. They are a schooling fish, preferring shallow coastal ocean waters, but they freely enter tidal estuaries.
The Spanish mackerel also has an elongated, compressed body and pointed snout, and is dusky blue dorsally with a silver underside.
These mackerel are found most frequently in water temperatures between 70 and 88 degrees F, and rarely in waters below 64 degrees F.
The Spanish mackerel commercial fishery was born around 1850 along the Long Island and New Jersey coasts, and by the 1870s was well-established in the mid-Atlantic and Hatteras area. In 1880 the Hatteras area produced 86 percent of the total coastal catch of 1.9 million pounds. By 1887 this number had dropped to 64 percent, after areas of major production had changed. This trend continued, and from 1950 through 1985 Florida accounted for more than 92 percent of the Spanish mackerel commercial landings. Since 1986 Florida’s contribution to the commercial harvest has decreased due to increased landings along the south and mid-Atlantic. Total commercial landings ranged between 5 million pounds and 18 million pounds, and between 1950 and 1983 averaged around 8 million pounds. The coastal landings have been quota-managed since 1986.
Spanish mackerel is a common visitor to Cape Hatteras from spring to autumn, sometimes swimming as far north as Pea Island.
Like the king, Spanish mackerel is a surface-dwelling, near-shore species that will migrate over long distances in large schools along the shore.
As water temperatures in the south increase, it moves north, when temperatures exceed 63 degrees F.
They spawn off Cape Hatteras over a long period between late spring and late summer.
Spanish mackerel consume small fishes, shrimp and squid, and reach a maximum age of 8 years.