All About Florida Keys Fishing & Key West Fishing

    King mackerel, Scomberomorous cavalla

    King mackerel are found year-round off south and southeast Florida and only seasonally
    in north Florida waters. There are apparently at least two highly migratory groups of king
    mackerel in the western North Atlantic: one on the Atlantic coast that ranges from North
    Carolina to southeast Florida and one that ranges throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico and
    into southeast Florida. A third group may be found in the western gulf in Mexico, Texas, and
    seasonally, in Louisiana (Grimes et al. 1987; Johnson et al. 1994; DeVries and Grimes 1997;
    Roelke and Cifuentes 1997); however, allozyme evidence for the existence of this group may
    simply be a historical artifact (Gold et al. 1997). There may also be a well-defined group on the
    Campeche Banks in the southern Gulf of Mexico that mixes to a low degree with other western
    and northern Gulf of Mexico king mackerel (Arrenguin-Sanchez et al. 1995). Gold (2000) used
    micro-satellite analyses of allelic variation from 1,006 king mackerel from 20 samples and
    concluded that king mackerel were very weakly differentiated into two stocks in peninsular
    Florida. Gold also found high proportions of Atlantic fish in samples collected from the Florida
    Keys during winter months—even though king mackerel are assigned to the gulf migratory
    group during winter. King mackerel generally follow the 20 °C isotherm during their north-south
    migrations (Beaumariage 1969). This species spawns in the coastal waters of the southern and
    northern Gulf of Mexico and off the south Atlantic coast (Burns 1981; Grimes et al. 1990).
    Because of the protracted spawning season, larvae have been collected off Florida from May
    through October. Females, which reach at least 26 years and 62.2” fork length (FL), grow older
    and larger than males (DeVries and Grimes 1997). Females mature before reaching 33.9” FL or
    5–6 years of age (Johnson et al. 1983).

    King mackerel are piscivorous and feed on schooling fishes. The clupeids, carangids,
    sciaenids, trichiurids, exocoetids, engraulids, and scombrids, were all found to be important food
    sources (Saloman and Naughton 1983a). Food content varies between area, seasons, and sizes of king
    mackerel. Of the eight identified species of Clupeidae, Spanish sardine, scaled sardine, and Atlantic
    thread herring were eaten in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Of the carangids,
    round scad, blue runner, and Atlantic bumper were especially important prey species in
    northwest Florida (Saloman and Naughton 1983a).
    Florida landings of king mackerel totaled 7,191,298 pounds in 2005. The recreational
    fishery accounted for 54% of the total statewide landings. Sixty-three percent of the statewide
    landings in 2005 were made on the Atlantic coast. Most commercial landings in Florida during
    2005 were made from Volusia County south to Dade County on the Atlantic coast and from
    Collier and Monroe Counties on the gulf coast (Fig. 1). Most recreational king mackerel landings
    in 2005 were made from St. Lucie County south to Dade County on the Atlantic coast, from
    Escambia County through Dixie County on the gulf coast (Fig. 2).
    The Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils have managed
    king mackerel since 1983. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
    implemented compatible regulations in 1984. The 2005 total landings were 14% lower than the
    average landings in the previous five years (2000-2004) and were 17% lower than the 1982–
    2005 historical average landings (Fig. 3). Changes in annual landings reflect, in part, commercial
    quotas and recreational bag-limit restrictions imposed on fishers. Total annual landings on the
    Atlantic coast fluctuated without trend between 1986 and 1996 then increased to about 4.2–6.2
    million pounds during 1997–2005 (Fig. 3). Gulf coast landings increased steadily between 1985
    and 1996 but decreased to 4.2 million pounds in 1999, then declined to an average annual
    landings level of 3.2 million pounds during 2000-2005. Total landings and commercial catch
    rates (Figs. 4, 5) are not useful in assessing the condition of king mackerel stocks because these
    indices are affected by regulations. However, total-catch rates of recreational anglers, which
    include fish kept and fish that were released, may be a valid measure of stock abundance and
    availability. Total-catch rates for recreational anglers on the Atlantic coast has increased since
    1991, increasing from about 0.4 fish per trip to about 0.6 fish per trip (Fig. 6). Gulf coast anglers’
    catch-rate estimates have been fairly stable since 1996 and do not show a discernable trend,
    except for a period of lower rates during 1992-1994 (Fig 7).
    Under Section 303 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, regional fishery management councils
    are charged with assessing the condition of their stocks; Technical Guidelines (Restrepo et al.
    1998) set forth procedures for identifying biomass-based measures such as Maximum
    Sustainable Yield (MSY), the Maximum Fishing Mortality Threshold (MFMT), and the
    Minimum Spawning Stock Threshold (MSST).
    Compatible with technical guidelines, MFMT (maximum fishing mortality threshold) and
    MSST (minimum stock size threshold) recommended by MSAP, a recent stock assessment
    indicated that Atlantic and Gulf king mackerel migratory groups were not overfished and
    overfishing were not occurring (SEDAR and SAFMC 2004a). For the Atlantic mackerel
    migratory group the median estimate of F/FMSY was 0.52 for fishing year 2002/03 and the
    percentage of estimated F2002/03/FMSY greater than 1.0 was 1%; the median estimate of
    BB2003/BMSY for Atlantic king mackerel was 1.22 and the estimated percentage of B2003 less than
    MSST was 2%. For the gulf king mackerel migratory group, the median estimate of F/F MSY was
    0.82 in 2002/03 and the percentage of estimated F2002/03/F MSY greater than 1.0 was 17%; the
    median estimate of B2003/BMSY for gulf king mackerel was 0.95 and the estimated percentage of
    B2003 B less than MSST was 18%.
Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Upper Keys Fishing
Marine Fisheries News
Download complete report
(including figures)
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