Mackerel – Atlantic/Boston

Scomber Scombrus

Market Name(s): Tiger Mackerel, Atlantic Mackerel, Boston Mackerel

Primary Source(s): Typically Virginia North into Maine

Season: Year Round

Size Range:  up to 1 lb

It may be hard to believe that a small fish like the Atlantic Mackerel, which rarely exceeds two feet in length, is a close relative of the Bluefin Tuna, which commonly tip the scales at 400 pounds or more. But that is precisely the case. The family Scombridae encompasses both fishes, and each share similar features: Both have deeply forked or crescent-shaped tail fins, both are predaceous, and both are streamlined, powerful swimmers that are highly migratory, covering vast distances in their respective ocean journeys. It is for this reason that both are found around the world, and in great numbers in the Atlantic Ocean.

There are several types of mackerel on the market today, but all are fairly comparable in appearance and size. The Spanish Mackerel, The Painted Mackerel (Cero) and the King Mackerel (Cavalla) are all a bit larger than, and rarely swim as far north as, the more common Atlantic Tiger Mackerel, which frequents the waters of Massachusetts & Maine during the late summer months. It is a stunning fish to the eye, bearing brilliant metallic greenish-blue lines along its sides. Mackerel swim in large shoals, and were once caught in large nets called kettle nets. Hence, a kettle of fish. Today, anglers on small boats or even on city piers, such as in Monomony Island From where these hail, can nab barrels of these beauties in no time flat.

Gill Net, Pound, Cast

Atlantic mackerel caught in the U.S. North Atlantic and Canada's Atlantic with purse seines is a "Best Choice." The U.S. purse seine fishery is very selective, and any at-risk species such as marine mammals or sea turtles that are caught are often released unharmed. In Canada, there are minimal seafloor impacts, and the fishery is managed well.

Atlantic mackerel caught in the U.S. North Atlantic with midwater trawls is a "Good Alternative." Bycatch of other species and ecosystem impacts are a concern in this fishery.

Mackerel flesh is decadently rich. It is firm, making it suitable for the grill, however some say its rich flavor is best exhibited in a court bouillon, and served with a fruity sauce with gooseberries, cranberries, rhubarb or fresh tomatoes, which makes mackerel a true treat.