Franconia Ridge Trail, White Mountains.

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Fish of the week: Atlantic Mackerel (Scomber Scombrus)

The Atlantic Mackerel is a small, tuna-like fish with iridescent blue sides and a silvery belly.  These little fish will rapidly grow up to 16 inches, and can live for 20 years.  Found in the Atlantic off the coasts of Labrador all the way down to North Carolina, the Atlantic Mackerel is currently 257% above its target biomass level (NMFS.NOAA), making it a great sustainable choice.  Although it’s a common fish, you won’t always find it in the seafood section at your grocery store.  It’s a fish best eaten fresh, and doesn’t handle freezing very well.  For this reason, you’ll either see it for sale canned or sold super fresh.  The best way to get your hands on this fish however, is to catch it yourself.

It’s amazing to watch these little torpedos of muscle chase around a shimmering school of baitfish.  If you ever plant your boat in the middle of one of these schools, all you have to do is drop your lure over the side, and next thing you know, an energetic mackerel is yanking away on your monofilament.   On the right day, you can easily pull up enough mackerel to bring home and eat for dinner.  These fish school close to shore, so don’t worry if you don’t have a boat.  Just find the nearest jetty when the mackerel are running, and you’ll probably have some luck.  If you live near the ocean, and see lots of people casting off a dock on an incoming tide, odds are they’re all looking to hook a mackerel.  They make excellent striper bait too.  Mackerel run at slightly different times every year, and the timing depends on your location, temperature, ‘out to sea’ factors, and the location of the mackerel’s food.  In Maine, look for them in early-mid summer.  Just ask around anywhere along the waterfront, and you’ll quickly learn the local fishing spots, and when the mackerel tend to run in that area.  Take a look at the National Marine Fisheries Service page on the mackerel here.