Click here to view management info about this species

AKA: Spanish

Description: Spanish mackerel have greenish backs with silvery sides and belly. Golden yellow spots above and below the lateral line cover the sides of the body. The front of the first dorsal fin is black. The lateral line curves gently to the base of the tail and the body is covered with tiny scales.

Size: Spanish mackerel grow to 37 inches and 12 pounds, but most catches range between 14 and 18 inches and 1 and 3 pounds.

Sometimes confused with: juvenile king mackerel (see this mackerel identification guide)

Habitat: Spanish mackerel live in open waters near the coast from the Gulf of Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula, migrating north and south with water temperatures. They may be found in the sounds or mouths of rivers in the summer.

Eating habits: Spanish mackerel feed on small fish, such as anchovies, sardines, threadfin herring and silversides, as well as shrimp and squid.

Life cycle: Spanish mackerel spawn in the ocean at night from May to September. They reach sexual maturity at about age 2 and can live as long as 12 years.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch Spanish mackerel from the surf, piers and boats, with almost any small, shiny metal lure or jig retrieved or trolled quickly. Large Spanish mackerel are often caught by fishermen slow-trolling live bait for king mackerel.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for harvest of fish, 6 pounds or larger.

See the list of weigh stations


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

Download the Fish Rules mobile app