Image credit: Brandi Noble - Contact
Habitat and Distribution
This species is widely distributed in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to central Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. It occurs singly or in small groups near the surface in coastal pelagic environments but can also be found around outer reefs.
Spawning season in the Gulf of Mexico
In the GOM, this species is reported to spawn from May to October with peak spawning occuring from June through September.
King Mackerel remain in schools of tens to thousands of fish year-round. Schools of adults migrate seasonally in the Gulf of Mexico, typically occurring off South Florida in the winter months and moving to the northern and western Gulf during summer months. However, there is evidence that populations of larger, older individuals are resident year round in the northern and western Gulf. Collections off the coast of Texas concluded that spawning activity occurred over the middle and outer continental shelf. King Mackerel are broadcast spawners with external fertilization. Individual females are estimated to spawn every 3 to 5 days.
Fishing Patterns in Relation to Spawning
Commercial landings show a large peak in July and August, which coincides with peak spawning. Landings decrease from September through the rest of the year. Average monthly landings have been much greater in spawning months than non-spawning months in all years except for 2014 and 2015. Recreational landings show a gradual increase over the summer with ther greatest amount occurring in July and August, during peak spawning.
Management of Spawning Aggregations
The commercial fishery for King Mackerel is subject to an annual catch limit in federal waters. Gillnetting is permitted for commercial fishers in federal waters in addition to hook and line gear, but spearing is not. The recrational fishery is subject to a daily catch limit of 2 in federal waters. Recreational fishers are not permitted to use castnets or powerheads in federal waters. In state waters, commercial catch limits range from per-vessel limits to a combination of per-vessel limits and annual quotas, although commercial catch limits are not set in all states. Texas designates King Mackerel as a gamefish only, and Florida restricts the commercial fishery to hook and line gear only. Recreational catch limits in state waters are the same as the federal catch limit of 2 per person. Texas restricts recreational fishing to hook and line gear only. There are no commercial or recreational seasonal closures for the fishery. Madison Swanson and Steamboat Lumps closed Nov.-Apr. The Edges is closed Jan. - Apr. None of the spawning months coincide with closures. The minimum size is 24" FL for commercial and recreational.