What Are Mackerel

In most species the mackerel is known to travel in large schools and with around 48 species, can be found in both deep and coastal waters.

If you are ever out in the ocean and notice the water appears to be boiling up in some areas, don't panic. This does not necessarily mean you have found a new Bermuda triangle. It is quite possibly a large school or mackerel stirring the surface as they skim along only inches from the surface of the water searching for food. These long bodied, rather thick appearing fish are all what is known as high sea fish. This means that they spend the majority of their time near the surface of the water. These fish move through the water at incredible speeds in most tropical and subtropical oceans. In most species the mackerel is known to travel in large schools and with around 48 species, can be found in both deep and coastal waters. In some species this is a very popular food fish that is place in a high category of commercial value. From the Perciformes order, the mackerel is found in the Scombridae family and ranges in size from a little under one foot to four feet in length.

Of the numerous species and thirty-three genera of mackerel the most recognized is the Atlantic mackerel. This beautiful fish has a bright green body with many dark stripes that run in an irregular pattern. A type of luminous effect is found on the sides and under parts of this fish that give it a reddish reflection. Atlantic mackerel feed mostly on sardines, young herring, anchovies and small crustaceans. During the later part of their spawning season they have also been observed feeding on sand lances. One of the more amazing characteristics of the mackerel is their ability to hastily dive when threatened by a predator. The lack of a swim bladder makes it possible for them to move into deep waters almost as quickly as the predator appears. Known as a delicious food fish, the Atlantic mackerel is often sought out by humans. Other predators include dolphins, tuna and sharks. Although not as commercially valued the chub mackerel, which is another species of the mackerel, is known to be one of the most fertile of all the mackerel species. Single chub mackerel females have been recorded that produce over a million eggs after one spawning period.

During the spawning season, which usually occurs during the months of April and May but in some species occurs during the months of March and April, large schools of mackerel will move into coastal waters. After spawning the females will release around 500,000 eggs that are left to float along on the surface of the water. This is made possible by a small bubble of oil that is found within each egg. In most cases the eggs are deposited during the evening hours. Young mackerels hatch in about a week and are know to grow at quite a fast pace but do not reach sexual maturity for around three years. During this time the young mackerel will join a group of its own age and size with which to swim and migrate. The migration of the mackerel, like tuna, has been studied for years. In some cases these fish have been observed swimming in huge schools that were as much as twenty miles long. While the body of the mackerel is covered with tiny scales the head is free of scales. Some of the more interesting of the species include the king mackerel that has a body that is a shimmering purplish blue. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of this fish is that unlike many of the perch like species the premaxillary and maxillary bones are fused together causing the jaw to be fixed and unable to protrude. In this suborder one of the more amazing species is the snake mackerel. This strange looking creature is a species found only in deep waters. The body of this fish in some species is mackerel like while in others it is long and thin. Also known as Gemphylidae, the snake mackerel is characterized by its long lower jaw filled with sharp teeth. Found only in the deepest waters of tropical and moderate oceans, very little is known about the habitat or mating habits of these interesting fish. Studies have shown that fossil discoveries can date the snake mackerel back to the Eocene era. Even with so little known about the habits of this fish, as many as fourteen species and thirteen genera have been identified to date.

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