Different from the king mackerel, there are a number of fish classified as Spanish mackerel. The Atlantic Spanish mackerel is a migratory species that swims to the northern Gulf of Mexico each spring. Spanish mackerel are found in tropical and subtropical waters along North America, Canada, and Cuba. Unfortunately, they are prone to parasitic infestation in muscle tissue and in the gills.
Spanish mackerel can grow to nearly 36 inches long, and adult fish commonly weigh between 8 and 11 lbs. The fish grow rapidly, although growth slows by the time males reach 5 years and females reach 6 years. Spanish mackerel can live up to 10 years.
Markings of Spanish mackerel include a green back with silver sides, and golden spots are present below and above the lateral line. The front dorsal fin is black, and the body structure is elongated and compressed. The fish have two dorsal fins; one is triangular and blue-black, while the second is green and concave. The pectoral fins are long and yellow with orange or brown edges, and the anal and ventral fins are white.
Spanish mackerel have relatively large, closely spaced triangular teeth used for feeding on small fish like anchovies, herrings, sardines, and occasionally on shrimp and cephalopods. They are opportunistic eaters, and juveniles consume a larger percentage of anchovies compared with adults.
Adults are often preyed upon by sharks, tuna, and bottlenose dolphins, while juveniles are preyed on by other fish.
Spanish mackerel remain in depths between 33 and 115 feet from the surface. The fish travel in extremely large schools, frequently near islands. They prefer high salinity water and migrate large distances close to shore. Juvenile Spanish mackerel travel offshore and near beaches.
During the warmer months, they travel north, and south toward Florida during the winter months. There are also some that migrate west toward Texas. When searching for Spanish mackerel, look inshore and offshore near grasses and reefs.