king mackerel vs mackerel

King Mackerel vs Mackerel- Which Fish Takes The Crown?


Having a hard time differentiating between King Mackerel and Mackerel? Don’t sweat it! We’ve all been there once in our lives. That’s why we’re here to help you out.

Picking the right fish is easier than rocket science, especially when one has our guide.

So which is the better choice, King Mackerel vs Mackerel?

The King Mackerel are bigger, heavier and quite expensive to buy. They are also unsafe to eat due to their high mercury levels. Mackerel on the other hand, are smaller and lighter. They have prominent yellowish spots and are very cheap. They are also safe to eat due to their low mercury levels.

This is overview might be too short for you if you’re a fishing novice. So, feel free to advance to our in-depth discussion on the two fish.

King Mackerel vs Mackerel: A Quick Overview

King Mackerel and Mackerel are similar-looking fishes of two different species. It might be hard for you to tell them apart. So, we’ve made a comparative table to help you differentiate:

Factors King mackerel Mackerel
Size About 19.7-35.4 inches About 12 inches
Location Found between Brazil to North Carolina Commonly found in the US East Coast
Edibility Unsafe to eat Safe to eat
Season Winter-spring Late spring-summer
Identifying characters Pronounced dip in lateral line Gradual slope in lateral line
Price About $20 About $1.10-$1.40

King Mackerel vs Mackerel: A Detailed Comparison

Basic information clearly isn’t enough for you to decide which Mackerel to catch. Before rushing with your lures to catch some fish, take a look at the details-


Size is a great factor to differentiate between the two shoaling fishes! The King Mackerel is a large and majestic fish. It usually has a size of 19.7-35.4 inches (50-85 cm). The average weight of the King Mackerel is 10-20 pounds. However, it does have the potential to reach 180 cm and 70-90 pounds.

The Mackerel, on the other hand, is much smaller. It has an average size of 12 inches and a weight of 7 pounds. 


Locating your desired fish is important prior to jump in with your fishing rods. The King Mackerel are usually found between Brazil and North Carolina. They occur in between depths of 22-33m.

On the other hand, Mackerel is common on the US East Coast. They’re found in areas like Cape Cod, Florida, Maryland, and the northern Gulf Coast. Mackerels tend to occur in depths less than 200m. You can use a navigator app like Cmap or Navionics to easily find them. 


Edibility is a factor where King Mackerel and Mackerel differ. The King Mackerel is said to be inedible or toxic by many. Even the governments of some countries have requested their people to avoid eating King Mackerel. This is because King Mackerel contains 0.73 ppm of organic mercury. 

Unfortunately, the mercury can’t be removed by cooking the King Mackerel. Moreover, it’s hard to avoid fishes with mercury due to the lack of proper guidelines.

However, the Mackerel has a low amount of 0.16 ppm mercury in it. But too much of anything is bad, so avoid eating too much Mackerel at once.


King Mackerel are usually found in markets throughout the year. But if you want to catch your own King Mackerel, winter or spring is the best time. During this season or the months of November to March, you’ll find King Mackerel in plenty.

Mackerel, on the other hand, is available during late spring and summer.  This means the months of May-June are a great time to catch some Mackerel. So, grab your fishing rod with a lever drag or star drag, and get fishing!

And since you’ll be needing a good fishing rod, here are some great ones:


Identifying Characters

King Mackerel are normally big in size and olive green in color. They have white bellies and slim bodies. They have a lateral line that drops profoundly near the first dorsal fin. The dorsal spine is light-colored and more relaxed. Young King Mackerel usually have elliptical yellow or golden spots that fade over time. 

Conversely, the mackerel has a slightly green-colored back and silver sides. It has a lateral line that evenly slopes down to the tail from the gill. The dorsal spine is usually dark or black colored. Adult Mackerel are known to have elliptical yellowish spots.

Be sure to fold your boat’s bimini top and keep it away before fishing. Because bright light makes the identification process easier.


The price of King Mackerel is a bit on the expensive side. King Mackerel cost $20 per pound. If you order at a restaurant, it might cost you more.

Mackerel, on the other hand, is really cheap. Its prices usually start from $1.10 and don’t tend to go over $1.40. 

But if you’re catching it instead of buying it then both the fish are inexpensive!

Final Decision

Still having a hard time deciding? Allow us to assist you.

We recommend you go for the King Mackerel if you want to impress your family. Its size and weight can impress anybody and everybody. 

If your purpose is to eat the fish, go for Mackerel. Yes, it’s small, but it’s a safe and inexpensive choice.

We hope you’ll weigh the pros and cons and then decide upon a fish.


Question: Is kingfish the same as king mackerel?

Answer: Yes, kingfish and king mackerel are indeed the same fish. There are other fish out there that are called Kingfish. So, you have to learn how to differentiate them according to their physical traits.

Question: Can I get mercury poisoning from fish?

Answer: Yes you can. Many fish have high levels of organic mercury or methylmercury. And eating those fish in high amounts can cause mercury poisoning.

Question: Which fish has the least amount of mercury?

Answer: There are 5 commonly eaten fish that have low mercury levels. They are salmon, shrimp, pollock, light tuna, and catfish.


Hope we were able to clear your questions and confusion about king mackerel vs mackerel. We’re confident you’ll follow our guide and crown the right fish. 

If you have any other queries, comment down below.

All the best with your fishing journey!

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