MOREHEAD CITY – Fishermen are being encouraged to know how to distinguish between king mackerel and Spanish mackerel before keeping one of the fish. Mixing up the two could cost up to $255 in fines and court costs.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries explained Thursday that confusing these two fish is problematic because the size limit on king mackerel is twice the length for Spanish mackerel, and the bag limit for Spanish mackerel is five times higher than for the kings.
The size limit for king mackerel is 24 inches fork length, from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail, and recreational fishermen may keep three fish per person, per day compared to the size limit for Spanish mackerel, which is 12 inches fork length, and 15 fish per person, per day may be kept.
Adult Spanish mackerel and juvenile king mackerel look similar, according to DMF. Both are long, slender fish with a forked tail and bronze-colored spots on the body but the Spanish mackerel features a black spot on the first dorsal fin that the king mackerel lacks. Another marker to distinguish the two apart is that the king mackerel has a pronounced dip in the lateral line below the second dorsal fin while the line on the Spanish mackerel gently curves to the tail.