Managed by: SAFMC , GMFMC
The Spanish mackerel is much smaller than its relative, the king mackerel, averaging only 2 to 3 pounds in weight. Spanish mackerel are greenish dorsally with silver sides and belly. Yellow or olive oval spots traverse the body, which is covered with very tiny scales.
Spanish mackerel form immense, fast-moving schools that are distributed from New York to Mexico, preferring water temperatures above 68° F. Unlike king mackerel, the Spanish mackerel do not appear to move freely around the Florida Keys, creating two subpopulations, one in the Gulf and the other off the southeastern states. Spanish mackerel are fast growing, and may live to be 8 years old. Both sexes are capable of reproduction by the second year. Spawning occurs from April to September off the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. Feeding Spanish mackerel are often seen forcing schools of small fish into tight bundles and nearly pushing them out of the water.
South Atlantic Federal Regulations
(For areas three-200 miles off the coasts of NC, SC, GA, and East Florida)
Note: Helpful information regarding the management of king and Spanish mackerel can be found at NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office - Making Sense of Mackerel
- Permit required.
- 12" FL size limit.
- Season opens March 1 and closes end of February or when quota is filled. Quota=3.87 million pounds.
- Must be landed with heads and fins intact.
- From GA to NY (Northern Zone), catch limit of 3,500 pounds per vessel per day. From east coast of FL to Dade-Monroe County (Southern Zone) line, the catch restrictions vary by month and percent allocation harvested (compatible with FL waters). See January 24, 2012 Fishery Bulletin regarding trip limits in the Southern Zone.
- The fishing year is March 1 to end of February. See February 28, 2008 Fishery Bulletin regarding timing of trip limit change.
- Authorized gear include automatic reel, bandit gear, rod & reel, cast net, run-around gill nets and stab nets. Minimum size of 3.5" stretch mesh required for all run-around gill nets.
- Purse seines and drift gillnets are prohibited.
- Gear restrictions apply.
- 12" FL minimum size limit.
- Must be landed with head and fins intact.
- Daily possession limit=15 per person Florida-NY.
- Charter/headboat operators must possess vessel permit for coastal migratory fish and must comply with bag limits. See March 28, 2008 Fishery Bulletin for data collection requirements.