Jack Mackerel

The Science

This fish is highly productive! It is a serial spawner, with females laying an average of about 34,000 eggs per spawning event. [1]

The Fishery

This fish is regulated along with other coastal pelagic fish, such as northern anchovy, market squid, Pacific sardine, and Pacific mackerel. [2] 

The Seafood

Some of the best barbeque fish are Mackerel species. [1] 

The Science

school of Jack Mackerel
Robertson, D Ross/CC BY-NC

Taxonomic description

  •  Its scientific name means “naturally formed rough tail”.
  •  This fish has an average length of 55 cm (21.6 in). [3]
  •  Its color ranges from metallic blue to olive green. [4]
  •  Its dorsal fin has 8 spines followed by 31 to 33 rays. [4]


  • This fish is found from the Eastern Pacific, from Southeast Alaska to Southern Baja California, Mexico, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. [3]

Life history

  • Eggs and larvae are commonly encountered beyond 320 km (200 mi) offshore. [5]
  • This fish can live up to 30 years. [6]
  • It matures at a relatively young age of one to three years. [6]
  • It has the lowest adult natural mortality compared to every other pelagic schooling species in the same region. [5]


  • Adults are often found offshore- can be up to 800 km (500 mi) offshore, 400 m (1310 ft) deep. [3]
  • It prefers subtropical regions at 8 degrees Celsius. [3]
  • It is found within mixed schools consisting of sardine, Pacific mackerel, and anchovy. [6]
  • This fish primarily feeds on large zooplankton, juvenile squid, and anchovy. [2]
  • It is preyed on by larger tuna, billfish, and marine mammals. [7]
  • A 1980’s decline in availability of Pacific and Jack mackerel [5]  led to rapid expansion in the 1990s of the market squid and sardine fisheries in Southern CA. [5]

The Fishery

A fishing boat with net
D. Haworth

Seasonal availability

  • It is primarily caught from December through April. [5]

Regulatory and managing authority

  • The Jack mackerel fishery is managed federally by NOAA fisheries and, as established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) through the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan (CPSFMP). [8]

Gear type

  • It is generally targeted with “round-haul” gear [8], such as purse seines, drum seines, lampara nets, and dip nets. [8]
  • This fish is also caught incidentally [8] in midwater trawls, pelagic trawls, gillnets, trammel nets, pots, and with trolls, hook-and-line, and jigs. [8]

Status of the fishery

  • Peak catch occurred in 1953, bringing in 70,000 metric tons of yield. [6]
  • Since 1991, catch averages have been less than 2,000 tons each year, composing only about 2% of CPS landings. [5]
  • Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) are allocated depending on distribution in US (65 percent). [8]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Assessed with “Least Concern” in northeastern Pacific, there is no current indication of widespread population decline. [9]
  • Midwater gear has minimal impact on environment because it does not contact seafloor. [1]

The Seafood

kimchi stew with mackerel

Edible portions

  • The flesh is edible.
  • The bones can be eaten if in canned form (boiled).

Description of meat

  • This fish tastes similar to sardine.
  • The meat is dense, rich and oily.

Culinary uses

  • It can be fried, baked, poached, grilled, marinated, smoked and barbecued. [1]
  • This fish is sold fresh, smoked, canned and frozen. [3]
  • Recipe: Barbecued mackerel with ginger, chilli & lime drizzle. [10]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutritional facts shown for drained, canned, jack, mackerel. [11]

Toxicity report

  • The flesh spoils quickly, which can lead to bacteria growth. [12]
  • It can be prone to scombroid food poisoning; symptoms include flushing of the face and body, nausea, burning in the mouth, headache. [12]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round.


[1] Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Jack Mackerel. http://www.afma.gov.au/portfolio-item/jack-mackerel/. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[2] Pacific Fishery Management Council. Coastal Pelagic Species: Background. https://www.pcouncil.org/managed_fishery/coastal-pelagic-species/. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[3] Luna, S.M., N. Bailly. Trachurus symmetricus. Fish Base. http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Trachurus-symmetricus.html#. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[4] Snow, J.T. Jack Mackerel. Mexico- Fish, Marine Life, Birds, and Terrestrial Life. https://mexican-fish.com/jack-mackerel/.  Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[5] Mason, J., Bishop, T. 2001. Jack Mackerel. Pages 309-311 in W.S. Leet, C.M. Dewees, R. Klingbeil, E.J. Larson. California’s Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. California Department of Fish and Game, Richmond, CA. Web.  https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34282&inline. Accessed 1 September 2020. 

[6] Maccall, A.D., Stauffer, G.D. 1983. Biology and Fishery Potential of Jack Mackerel (Trachurus Symmetricus). CalCOFI Rep., Vol. 24. Web. http://calcofi.org/publications/calcofireports/v24/Vol_24_MacCall___Stauffer.pdf. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[7] California  Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Jack Mackerel. www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/CPS-HMS/Jack-Mackerel#29347838-selected-articles-and-publications. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[8] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2016. Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan as amended through amendment 15. Pacific Fishery Management Council.. www.pcouncil.org/coastal-pelagic-species/fishery-management-plan-and-amendments/. Accessed 04 June 2017.

[9] International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Trachurus symmetricus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/183729/0. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[10] Jackson, CJ. 2007, July. Barbecued mackerel with ginger, chili & lime drizzle. Good Food magazine. BBC Worldwide. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4465/barbecued-mackerel-with-ginger-chilli-and-lime-dri. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[11] Nutritional Value. Fish, drained solids, canned, jack, mackerel. NutritionValue.org. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Fish%2C_drained_solids%2C_canned%2C_jack%2C_mackerel_nutritional_value.html. Accessed 28 May 2017.

[12] American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Histamine Toxicity. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/related-conditions/histamine-toxicity. Accessed 28 May 2017.