- Black sea bass have dangerously sharp spines on their dorsal fin that can puncture human skin.
- The all-tackle world record for black sea bass is 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
- When hooked in deep water and brought quickly to the surface, a black sea bass will often regurgitate its stomach contents.
King mackerel (Scomberomorus)
King mackerel, most commonly referred to as kingfish, are the largest of the mackerel family. They are swift and powerful swimmers, demonstrated by dramatic jumps from the water. Typical coloration is dark gray to gray-green to blue-green on the back, with a silver hue on the sides, fading to a white or silver belly. The fins are pale, with the exception of the first dorsal fin, which is blue. Kings have a distinct lateral line, which begins to curve downward at the second dorsal fin. There are no additional stripes or spots on the body, except for juvenile kings, which have five or six rows of bronze spots. There are about 60 extremely sharp teeth equally divided on each of the jaws. The body is covered in scales and coated in mucous, which assists in movement and fighting illness.
The two dorsal fins, which touch, have 12 to 18 spines and 15 to 18 soft rays, respectively. The pectoral fins have 21 to 23 soft-rays. The pelvic fins are located on the underside and the anal fin has 16 to 20 soft-rays. The peduncle has a large keel, and the caudal fin is significantly forked and has two keels. There are seven to 10 finlets running from the dorsal and anal fins to the widely forked tail.
An abundant fish, king mackerel are found in subtropical and tropical waters in the western Atlantic Ocean between 45 degrees north and 25 degrees south latitude. The distribution of kings in coastal regions changes seasonally, though there are some permanent populations in warmer waters. It is suspected that there are two distinct populations of king mackerel, one in the Atlantic Ocean and one in the Gulf of Mexico.
Biologists indicate their range is from the Gulf of Maine to southern Brazil, however, they are only found from Virginia to Maine in the very warmest months or years. The largest numbers found in the Atlantic roam the area from Florida to northern Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea. The population within the Gulf of Mexico can be found along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Florida.
This species lives in open water offshore as well as shallower coastal waters near beaches and in estuaries. These areas often include coral reefs, piers, wrecks and buoys, especially when baitfish are plentiful. King mackerel favor clear, calm waters with temperatures above 68 F and depths between 65 and 300 feet. In addition, they can be found in areas with high salinity levels. They are also known to frequent bays, reefs, piers, wrecks, etc. where there are large populations of baitfish and are known to congregate in areas where there are contours or breaks in elevation.
Most king mackerel migrate every year with changes in water temperatures. They also travel in schools, though they seem to become more solitary as they grow older.
Spawning occurs at various times of the year, depending on water temperature and migration patterns, and it is believed that multiple spawns may be occur in the same year. It is generally believed that spawning occurs from April through November. Gulf of Mexico populations spawn primarily between May and September, while Atlantic populations spawn primarily in July and August. Around Brazil, spawning occurs all year.
King mackerel reproductive habits include external fertilization and dispersal of eggs in open water. They do not guard the eggs; rather they are allowed to float in or on the water until they hatch. Hatching and development appear to be influenced by amount of light and water temperature. Female kings produce between 70,000 and 2.5 million eggs, depending on age and size. Eggs hatch in approximately one day.
Large numbers of herring, shad, sardine, pilchard, menhaden, jack, anchovy, mullet and drum are consumed by the king mackerel. They also consume smaller amounts of shrimp and squid. In a year, they will eat about 4.5 times their body weight in food.
These fish are predators who are aided by their forceful jaws and sharp teeth. If needed, they can leap out of the water as they pursue their prey.
This species is an extremely popular sportfish because of long, strong runs when hooked that can be repeated several times during the battle and include occasional leaps from the water. A variety of techniques may be employed and commonly include trolling, chumming, drifting, still fishing and surf fishing.
In many cases, experienced anglers say, the greatest challenge in fishing for king mackerel is locating them. Consequently, trolling is a very popular method. Natural bait such as herring, menhaden, mullet and ladyfish, or artificial lures such as spoons, feathers, jigs and plugs have all proven effective. Because king mackerel usually stay fairly deep below the surface, one key is to place the bait or lure sufficiently deep. As a result, planers and downriggers are often used in the pursuit of king mackerel. In many cases, chumming is used in conjunction with the trolling.
Because they are strong fish, angling for king mackerel generally requires tough tackle, although a soft tip is recommended to prevent overpowering the fish. In general, mackerel fishermen use line weights of 20 pounds or more and up to 300 yards of line. Many use a wire leader to prevent the sharp teeth from severing the line.
- In certain areas, caution should be exercised before consumption, because there have been cases of ciguatera poisoning in some populations.
- The high quality meat is often cut into steaks but is also marketed fresh, canned, frozen, salted and smoked.
- Their Latin name translates as spiny-finned marine fish (scomberomorus) and horse or large (cavalla).
- Eating king mackerel longer than 32 inches is discouraged because they often have high levels of mercury.
- Anglers should be sure to contact local fish and game agencies since there are regulations in some states.