Spanish Mackerel Makes a Big Impact on Alabama’s Seafood Industry

There are plenty of fish in the sea, and some of the world’s tastiest varieties make their home here on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

One of those fish is the Spanish Mackerel. As the “prince” of the Gulf (its cousin, the King Mackerel, is the “king,” of course), this fish typically weighs in around three pounds, making it an excellent target for a near shore deep-sea fishing expedition. And because they pack a strong, robust flavor that cooks well any number of ways, you won’t want to toss back any princes that you reel in.

A huge asset for commercial fishermen, Spanish Mackerel is actually one of the most abundant fish on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. But there’s one place you aren’t likely to find Spanish Mackerel in Alabama: on seafood restaurant menus.

“It’s not eaten locally around here,” said Randy Shutt, who processes plenty of these fish at Safe Harbour Seafood in Bon Secour. “Most of the Spanish Mackerel we catch goes up north or out west. It’s just not a fish that they eat a lot in the Southeast. But up north, they love them.”

Because of this high demand from other coasts, Spanish Mackerel is highly profitable here in Alabama. For gill netting fishermen, Spanish Mackerel is the second most valuable species in Alabama’s waters, just behind Mullet.

It’s easy to catch even if you don’t own a gill net. There are plenty of Spanish Mackerel in Alabama waters when it’s warm enough (April through October), and they usually stay pretty close to the beach. If you try the trolling method, you should be able to catch quite a few.

And when it comes to health benefits, Spanish Mackerel is loaded. This meaty, oily fish is very lean and is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids that you’ll find. It’s also high in protein and low in calories (as long as it’s not fried).

As far as cooking and eating Spanish Mackerel, that’s up to you and your kitchen. “I don’t know of any restaurants in the area that put it on the menu consistently,” Shutt said. “I wish there were more restaurants down in this area that tried them. Maybe it’s just not a fancy enough name.”

That doesn’t mean you’re on your own if you want to give Spanish Mackerel a try, though. There are plenty of chefs in Alabama that appreciate the unique taste of this profitable fish.

Jay Norris, specialty chef at the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel, loves Spanish Mackerel because of its strong flavor and affinity for creative pairings.

“Because of its full-flavored meatiness, Spanish Mackerel can have a stronger than normal taste,” Norris said. “It goes well with a smoky influence, or the acidity and tanginess of tomatoes, lemon, capers or olives.”

So next time you’re out on the Gulf waters with your rod and reel, don’t throw back any Spanish Mackerel that you catch.

And if you’re just looking for a tasty new dish to try, track down a local market that carries Spanish Mackerel. No matter what preparation technique you choose, you’re in for a tasty, healthy meal.

If you don’t have a recipe of your own, try one of ours. We recommend Grilled Spanish Mackerel San Salvador from Steve Zucker, corporate chef for Bob Baumhower’s Compleat Angler Seafood Grille & Bar.