The Alabama heat can be enough to scare some folks into hibernation during the late summer months.
But not the King Mackerel. These “kings” of Alabama’s Gulf Coast can be found as early as May and as late as November, and their peak season comes around late July and early August.
If you’re a King Mackerel fan—or you’ve always wanted to give it a try—now’s the time to look for it on the menu or cook one up yourself. King Mackerel is known for a strong, robust flavor and is often fried, broiled or baked but is also perfect for smoking.
For those feeling a bit more adventurous (or just looking for the simplest method of preparation), Mackerel can easily be poached to perfection. All you need to do is put the fish, skin and all, in a large pot of cold salt water and heat it until it boils.
King Mackerel makes for great eating, but because this fish usually averages close to ten pounds, it also makes for a great sportfishing target, especially if you’re looking to bring the family along.
If you’re hunting down the King Mackerel, head offshore and look for them around structure like oil and gas platforms. Spoons, jigs and other artificial lures will do, but if you’re able to catch a few small baitfish, live or dead, make sure to use them. Just be patient—the King Mackerel is one of the fastest fish on the Gulf Coast, so it may take a few tries to hook one.
While King Mackerel are usually between five and 30 pounds, you might reel one in twice that size if you’re lucky. Just this past April, 8-year-old Andrew Quinn, a Michigan native on vacation with his family, managed to reel in a record-breaking King Mackerel of 68 lbs, 3 oz. The previous King Mackerel record in Alabama was 67 lbs, 15 oz.
Make sure to bring a large cooler on board if you’re fishing for King Mackerel. This fish doesn’t freeze as well as others, so it’s best prepared right away.
And once you’ve begun fileting your King Mackerel, don’t be scared off by the grayish color of the flesh; this is caused by a high fat content, not a lack of quality or freshness. This high fat content keeps the fish moist when grilling or smoking.
King Mackerel season is not to be ignored—these fish make for a fun activity out on the water and a fine meal back at home.
For more information on King Mackerel and its cousin, the Spanish Mackerel, visit our Field Guide.