There are many variations of mackerel in the family. Two of the most popular mackerel for anglers to target are the Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. Mackerel are aggressive-looking fish because they come equipped with teeth-lined mouths. They offer extraordinary sporting abilities, which is why they are popular gamefish. What is a Spanish mackerel vs. a king mackerel. 

What Is The Habitat Of A King Mackerel And Spanish Mackerel

The king mackerel, otherwise known as a kingfish, and the spanish mackerel are saltwater fish that have a relatively short range along the east coast of the United States because they prefer warmer waters. 

Spanish Mackerel Range

The Spanish mackerel is most abundant between the Chesapeake area and south Florida. During the summer, they do push as far north as Cape Cod. 

King Mackerel Range

When it comes to a kingfish range, they do not roam as far north as the Spanish mackerel. The king mackerel is most prevalent between North Carolina and south Florida but will occasionally venture up to New England. 

Can You Catch King Mackerel And Spanish Mackerel in South Carolina

Both Spanish mackerel and kingfish can be caught in the coastal waters of South Carolina. The kingfish is generally in deeper waters offshore, while the Spanish mackerel will enter near the coastline. 

How To Identify a Kingfish vs. Spanish Mackerel

The two types of mackerel are different in both appearance and size. Here are the to tell the difference between king vs Spanish mackerel.

King Mackerel Identification

The body of a king mackerel is long, much like a wahoo. The top portion of the fish is green in color and fades to silver below. Handle the kingfish with care. The mouth is equipped with razor-sharp teeth. Some are skinny, while others are wide-bodied, depending on the availability of food. 

The schooling size fish are typically between a couple of pounds and twenty pounds. They are plentiful, between thirty and fifty pounds but can reach nearly 100 pounds. 

Spanish Mackerel Identification

A Spanish mackerel is deep blue near the top and has yellow spots along the silver sides. They can be confused with small kingfish, but a distinguishing mark is the lateral line. The lateral line, which extends from the tail to the head, does not dip. It remains level. 

When comparing Spanish vs king mackerel, the Spanish mackerel is small in size. It is usually caught between one and five pounds but occasionally reaches ten pounds. 

Are Kingfish and Spanish Mackerel Good to Eat

The flesh of a kingfish and Spanish mackerel are oily. Because of the high level of oil, they are great broiled or smoked. Smoked fish dip is one of the most popular ways to prepare mackerel fillets. Because of the high oil content, the meat is gray in color before it is cooked. Compared to many other offshore fish, the kingfish and Spanish mackerel are not as versatile in cooking methods.

The cooking methods are the same for king fish vs Spanish mackerel. When smoking select the wood flavor you prefer, and cook on a smoker at temperatures of 150 degrees or less. On average it takes 3 hours to cook but this varies with Spanish mackerel vs king mackerel because of the thickness of the fillets. A kingfish requires longer cooking times than Spanish mackerel.

How are Kingfish and Spanish Mackerel Caught

Both the kingfish and Spanish mackerel can be caught in similar ways but typically are found in different depth ranges. 

How To Catch Kingfish

The king mackerel can be caught trolling, drift fishing, or at anchor. When it comes to line weight, 20 to 40 is best. When trolling, spoons and feathers with rigged bait trolled on planers yield excellent results. Drift fisherman, and for those at anchor, live bait like goggle eyes or whole dead bait such as sardines will lead to hookups from the upper water column down near the bottom. 

How To Catch Spanish Mackerel

When fishing for Spanish mackerel vs king fish, light tackle is all that’s needed. Spanish mackerel are great fighters and will pull off wild runs. Lures should be shiny such as plugs, spoons, or jigs. Work the lure fast to attract more bites. Live bait is also effective. Rig up small live baitfish or shrimp. 

What Type Of Reel Is Best For Spanish Mackerel And King Mackerel

King mackerel vs Spanish mackerel requires different reels. light trolling equipment in the twenty-pound range is ideal for kings when dropping dead baits, live baits, or trolling spoons and cedar plugs.

Spanish mackerel are smaller therefore the gear can be scaled down. We recommend fishing with medium sized spinning reels when casting top water plugs, trolling, or drifting baits. Spanish mackerel are known for fast short runs so ensure the drag is set properly.

When fishing for either the Spanish or king mackerel, ensure to use stout leader line to prevent break-offs by the sharp teeth.

Is It Worth Fishing For Kingfish And Spanish Mackerel

The answer is yes. If you have a smaller boat and cant make long runs to where the kingfish spend most of their time stay nearshore for Spanish mackerel. The fight from either type of mackerel is fun for the whole family. Be cautious when removing hooks because of the teeth. Remember that Spanish mackerel require light to medium action spinning gear while king mackerel should be targeted with trolling or medium-heavy action spinning gear. Smoke either one up and mix your favorite ingredients for a dip.