King Mackerel or “Kingfish,” as they are commonly called, are some of South Florida’s greatest sport fish. While they aren’t great for eating (although you can eat them), Kingfish are a fun favorite of anglers looking for a challenge.
Kingfish are a migratory species of mackerel of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They are an important species to both the commercial and recreational fishing industries.
Habitat: Coastal to offshore waters. Often around piers. They may occasionally be found in deep water.
- King mackerel grow fast, up to 5 ½ feet and 100 pounds.
- They can live more than 20 years.
- They are able to reproduce when they reach 2 years of age.
- There are two distinct populations, one in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Atlantic.
- They spawn on the outer continental shelf from May through October. Females release eggs in the open water, where they are fertilized.
- Females grow much larger than males, an evolutionary strategy that maximizes the number of eggs that a female can produce. Females can produce 50,000 to several million eggs.
- King mackerel are carnivores, feeding on fish, squid, and shrimp. They’re voracious feeders and have been observed leaping out of the water in pursuit of prey.
- Juvenile and larger pelagic fish feed on smaller king mackerel. Bottlenose dolphins and large fish, such as sharks and tunas, feed on adult king mackerel.
Back is bluish-green, fading to silvery sides and belly (no spots)
Front of first dorsal fin lacks a dark blotch
Lateral line drops sharply below the second dorsal fin
Juveniles may have yellowish spots, similar to Spanish mackerel
Kings feed on small fish and squid and take both natural and artificial baits. Live baits include pogies, herring, Spanish sardine, ballyhoo, and mullet. Lures should be flashy sub-surface lures or large fish-like plugs. Use 20-pound line and tackle, or heavier for larger kings, with a wire or mono leader.