King Mackerel, or ‘Kingfish’, is the largest fish in the Mackerel family. These are prized fish that are commonly targeted in fishing competitions, and can reach up 72 inches, but most around here don’t exceed 66” (5 ½ feet) and 90-100 pounds. They can live up to 20 years, with Males maturing fully within their first or second years, Females take 3-4 years to reach their full size but end up much larger than males. In fact, most Kings over 20 pounds are typically female.
You really have to understand the migratory patterns of this fish because the same location will be plentiful one day then absent at other times. They typically travel in large schools, so when you’re onto them the action is fast and furious. They will put up a good fight but usually come up to the boat without a ton of effort. Be on your toes when bringing them aboard though because they have a mouth full of teeth and they would love to chomp you while thrashing about on deck!
They have very good eyesight and very sharp teeth. They often bite on the back of a lure, so the hook is set in the back of the mouth behind a full set of chompers. We like to troll for King Mackerel with a very light wire so they don’t bite through the line, but you can’t go too heavy due to the great eyesight or they won’t bite. The gauge of wire really depends on water clarity in any given location. Because Kings typically bite the tail, you must rig live bait or trolling lures with hooks in front and back. Generally, the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish you’ll catch.
King Mackerel have an oily meat that is best prepared smoked or grilled. Cutting them as thick fillets works best, because they have very few large bones. The flavor is very pleasant, with a strong to medium fish taste. They are highly valued as a sashimi fish, but more commonly seared and cooked to medium rare or they can become dry.