Family: Mackerel

Description: Color ranges from black iridescent to bluish green with silvery sides, the body is streamlined with a tapered head, no black pigment present on the front of the first dorsal fin, the lateral line starts high and drops sharply below the second dorsal fin, young fish often have yellowish spots

Similar Fish: Spanish Mackerel

Where found: King mackerel are found both nearshore and offshore, often around piers. They may occasionally be found in deep water.

Size: typically encountered from five to 14 kg (30 lb), but is known to exceed 40 kg (90 lb)

*Florida Record: 90 lb, caught near Key West

Remarks: Kings feed on small fish and squid and take both natural and artificial baits. Live baits include pogies, herring, Spanish sardine, ballyhoo, and mullet. Lures should be flashy sub-surface lures or large fish-like plugs. Use 20-pound line and tackle, or heavier for larger kings, with a wire or mono leader. They migrate from south Florida waters in winter northward in spring. They spawn offshore in mid-summer.


Minimum Size Limit: 24” fork length

Daily Bag Limit: 2 per harvester per day

Gear: hook and line and spearing only

Fishing Tips: King mackerel are found in both nearshore and offshore waters throughout Florida, often near schools of baitfish. Like many of the pelagic species, kings prefer water temperatures above 68 degrees, so they migrate to warmer waters in the fall of the year. Kings feed primarily on schooling bait fish and squid and are commonly caught while trolling with flashy spoons or duster rigged with a whole cigar minnow. Free lining or slow trolling with live baits (cigar minnows, herring, sardines, blue runners) is a great way to hook the larger and more solitary kings. Free lining a live squid at night, especially over reefs that hold baitfish, can also be very effective. Tackle requirements depend on the size of fish and the method of fishing. Spinning or bait-casting tackle with 20 to 30 pound monofilament line is sufficient when free lining live baits as long as you have enough spool capacity for the initial run after hookup. While kingfish do not have great endurance, they are very fast and will commonly take 100 to 200 yards of line off the reel in the first 30 seconds of the fight. For trolling, 30 to 50 pound trolling tackle is commonly used. Kings have very sharp teeth requiring the use of wire or very heavy monofilament leader.