Mackerel Family
Whole Atlantic Mackerel [family Scombridae (Mackerels, tunas, bonitos)]

Mackerels are a large family including several genera of economically important fish. On this page you will find the oval bodied mackerels. They are generally meaty, oily and strongly flavored, ranging from a few ounces to nearly 100 pounds. The deep bodied mackerels will be found on our Tuna Family page.

Mackerel should be handled carefully because of the possibility of Histamine Poisoning. After catching, it should be immediately chilled to near freezing, frozen or salted. The poisoning is not usually dangerous but can be more serious for persons with allergy to bee and wasp stings.

More on Varieties of Fish (very large page).

True Mackerels   -   [tribe Scombrini of subfamily Scombrinae]

Atlantic Mackerel   -   [Saba (Japan); Scomber scombrus]
Atlantic Mackerel

This North Atlantic mackerel is most commonly found off the European coast and in Japanese sushi bars - large quantities are exported to Japan from Norway. There are also strong populations off the U.S. Atlantic coast and it is also found in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and off the coast of Morocco. This fish can grow to 23-1/2 inches, but the photo specimen was 15 inches long and weighed 1-1/4 pounds before being cleaned, stuffed and baked. This fish is kosher, though I'm not certain how.   Details and Cooking

Chub Mackerel   -   [Pacific Mackerel, Japanese Mackerel, California Mackerel; Saba, Honsaba, Masaba (Japan); Scomber japonicus   |   Blue Mackerel, Southern Mackerel, Spotted Chub Mackerel; Gomasaba, Marusaba (Japan); Scomber australasicus   |   Atlantic Chub Mackerel; Scomber colias]
Whole Chub Mackerel

These three fish are, for all practical purposes, the same fish, occupying tropical to subarctic waters worldwide. S. japonicus and S. australasicus share the Indo-Pacific region and S. colias occupies the North and South Atlantic. S. japonicus, the most commercial of the three, grows to 25 inches and over 6 pounds, but the photo specimen is 14-1/4 inches and 1 pound. Held in disrespect in North America for being strong flavored and oily, this fish is highly regarded in Japan (though Atlantic Mackerel (S. scombrus) is preferred). Sold fresh, frozen, salted, smoked and canned, these fish are not considered endangered. They are said to have a few scales, enough to be kosher, but I have yet to find any.   Details and Cooking

Indian Mackerel   -   [Alumahan (Philippine); Kembung (Indonesia), Bangda, Bangude, Aiyla, Aiyla Meen (India); Rastrelliger kanagurta ]
Whole Indian Mackerel

A highly commercial Indo-West Pacific mackerel found from the Red Sea and Madagascar to Samoa, these fish can grow to over 13 inches but the photo specimen was 9 inches long and weighed 5-1/4 ounces. This fish is not considered threatened and is sold fresh, frozen, canned, dried-salted, smoked and made into fish sauce. It has just enough scales to be kosher.   Details and Cooking

Island Mackerel   -   [Rastrelliger faughni]
Whole Island Mackerel

This Indo West Pacific fish is native from India far east as Fiji and as far north as Taiwan. It can grow to nearly 8 inches long and 1-1/2 pounds, but is usually smaller. Nonetheless, it supports a fishery reported to be over 800,000 tonnes. I've not seen them in Southern California, but they possibly exist here as one of small Philippine dried fish (daing) under some other name. Philippine fish names are chaotic. IUCN Red List DD (Data Deficient).   Photo by Rodalpho B Reyes distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial v3.0 unported..

Japanese Mackerel   -   More than one fish - see Chub Mackerel and Spotted Mackerel

Short Mackerel   -   [Hasa-hasa (Philippine); Pla thu (Thai); Rastrelliger brachysoma]
Two whole Short Mackerel

This fish is native to the seas of Southeast Asia as far as Fiji, but doesn't venture much into the Indian Ocean. It can grow to nearly 13 inches long, but is more commonly about 8 inches. This fish is very important in the cuisines of Thailand, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.   Note:   I have seen fish in Philippine markets in Los Angeles labeled "Hasa-hasa" that was actually Bigeye Scad. As served in Thailand, Short Mackerel looks a little strange, because the backbone is broken just behind the head, which is bent down so the fish fits in the bamboo steamers used to cook it in salt brine. This fish is interchangeable with Indian Mackerel. IUCN Red List DD (Data Deficient).   Photo by Xufank distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 unported..

Whole Smoked Mackerel   -   [Scomber spp.]
Fish Mackerel is an oily fish with robust flavor which makes it an excellent candidate for smoking. Atlantic mackerel is preferred but Chub Mackerel is also used.   Details and Cooking

Spanish Mackerels   -   [tribe Scomberomorini of subfamily Scombrinae]

Indo-Pacific King Mackerel / Seerfish / Surmai   -   [Spotted Seer Fish, Surmai (India); Scomberomorus guttatus   |   very similar and also called Surmai: Streaked Seerfish; Scomberomorus lineolatus   |   also Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel; Scomberomorus commerson]
Indo-Pacific King Mackerel

This prized eating mackerel is found in the Indo-West Pacific and Persian Gulf. Its range extends north to the southern tip of Japan and south through the Java Sea. It can grow to 30 inches but is commonly 21 inches. It is distinguished by round dots about 1/4 inch diameter on the sides above the centerline. Red List status NE (Not Evaluated).   Details and Cooking   Photo by Hamid Badar Osmany distributed equivalent to license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 unported. attribution required.

The Streaked Seerfish (dashes instead of spots) grows up to 37 inches but has a moderately narrower range. The Narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel (vertical bars all along the sides) grows a lot larger, to 94 inches, and has the same range as the Indo-Pacific, but is less common through most of the range.

Atlantic King Mackerel   -   [Kingfish; Scomberomorus cavalla]
Whole King Mackerel

Largest of the fish called mackerel, the king mackerel can weigh nearly 100 pounds, measure up to 6 feet long and live for over 20 years. It is found along the Atlantic coast of the Americas from the U.S. / Canada boarder almost to Argentina. Sports fishing brings in well over twice the catch of commercial fishing. The photo specimen weighed about 13 pounds.   Details and Cooking.   Photo by Stephen Ewen distributed under license license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported..

Pacific Sierra   -   [Sierra, Spanish Mackerel; Scomberemorus sierra]
Whole Pacific Sierra

This prized eating mackerel is found along the East Central Pacific from Southern California to the northern tip of Chile. It can grow to 39 inches and 18 pounds but the one in the photo was 20-1/2 inches long and weighed 1 pound 11-3/4 ounces. Market size around here is between 15 and 22 inches. This fish has rows of gold dots about 1/4 inch diameter, but they are hard to see in the photo. Red List status LC (Least Concern).   Details and Cooking

Spotted Mackerel   -   [Australian Spotted Mackerel; Scomberomorus munroi | Japanese Spanish Mackerel; Scomberomorus niphonius]
Whole Spotted Mackerel

These two West Pacific fish are often confused and can be considered interchangeable. The Japanese is found along the coasts of Japan down to Hong Kong, and is the most important mackerel in the Japanese market. The Australian is found all around Australia, but mostly in the north, around the southern islands of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The Australian can grow to 41 inches and 24 pounds, while the Japanese can grow to 39 inches and 15 pounds. The photo specimen was 9 inches and 2-3/4 ounces, purchased from an Asian market in Los Angeles for 2015 US $1.99 / pound. The Australian is IUCN Red Listed as NT (Near Threatened), while the Japanese is Red Listed as DD (Data Deficient).   Details and Cooking

Not a Mackerel
Some fish commonly known as "mackerels" are not actually mackerels. They may be placed on this page for convenience.

Mackerel Pike   -   [Pacific Saury; Sanma (japanese); Cololabis saira of family Scomberesocidae of order Beloniformes]
Two whole Mackerel Pike

Not actually a Mackerel, this highly elongated fish is related to Flying Fish and Needlefish. It often skims along the surface of the water, propelled by its submerged tail. It is found in the North Pacific, ranging from Korea to Alaska and as far south as the tip of Baja, Mexico. This fish can grow to 15 inches but the photo specimen was 12-1/2 inches long and weighed 6 ounces. Mackerel Pike is kosher. It is a highly commercial catch, but with a high reproductive rate is not considered threatened. IUCN Red Listed NE (Not Evaluated).   Details and Cooking

Health & Nutrition:

Mackerel are very high in Omega-3 fish oils, and are not a mercury problem. Certain supplement peddlers shrilly declare all fish to be mercury problems despite strong evidence to the contrary. After all, how could they sell their expensive krill oil if you knew you could just go out and buy a mackerel?

Mackerel are delicate and perishable. Fresh fish should be kept well refrigerated and cooked promptly. If mishandled they could be subject to bacterial action resulting in production of histamines. An overload of histamines causes tingling of the lips and mouth, skin rashes, vomiting and other symptoms that may last for as long as 12 hours. In most cases it is not dangerous, but in the case of persons with allergy to bee and wasp stings it can be serious. Such persons should be careful about the fish they eat and should carry anti-histamine tablets.

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