The New International Encyclopædia/Mackerel

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MACKEREL (OF. makerel, maquerel, maquereau, Fr. maquereau, from ML. macarellus, mackerel, probably from Lat. macula, spot). A fish of the spiny-rayed family Scombridæ, and especially of the typical genus Scomber. The body is spindle-shaped and compressed, with a slender caudal peduncle, keeled on each side, and a crescent-shaped tail. There are two dorsal fins, the posterior one succeeded by from five to nine finlets. The common mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is abundant on both sides of the North Atlantic, south to Spain, in Europe, and Cape Hatteras in America. It is a very beautiful fish, brilliant green and blue above with about thirty-five wavy black transverse streaks, and silvery below. The average length is about 12 inches, such a fish weighing about a pound. Occasionally one finds a specimen 20 inches in length with a weight of 3 to 4 pounds. Maturity is reached about the fourth year. Young mackerel are variously called ‘spikes,’ ‘blinkers,’ and ‘tinkers,’ according to their size. The mackerel appear along the coast in spring in immense schools, often estimated to contain hundreds of thousands of barrels, wandering widely and voraciously feeding upon anything smaller than themselves, mainly young fishes; and withdraw again in the fall to deeper, warmer waters. They spawn in May, June, and July on the American coast. The eggs are very minute and at first float at the surface, but subsequently gradually sink to the bottom. A single female may contain as many as 200,000 eggs; and during the summer of 1896 24,000,000 mackerel eggs were artificially hatched by the United States Fish Commission.

There are only a few species of mackerel, but these are widely distributed and everywhere highly valued as food. The flesh, especially of the common species, is excellent when eaten fresh, and is salted in very great quantities. The mackerel fisheries (see Fisheries) are among the most important in both Europe and America. The principal fishing station in the United States is Gloucester, Mass. About 1000 vessels were employed in former years, but now the number has been reduced to less than 500. The chub mackerel (Scomber colias) is found in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The immense horse mackerel (Thunnus thynnus), pelagic and found in both oceans, reaches a length of 10 feet and a weight of 1500 pounds. The flesh is excellent and large numbers of the fish are caught by Europeans. (See Tunny.) The Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus) occurs on both coasts of the United States, attaining a weight of 8 or 9 pounds, and is a most excellent food fish. Consult: Goode, Fishery Industries, sec. i. (Washington, 1884), and other works cited under Fish and under Fisheries. See Plate of Mackerels.


NIE 1905 Mackerel.jpg

1. TUNNY (Thunnus thynnus). 3. COMMON MACKEREL (Scomber scombrus).
2. CHUB MACKEREL (Scomber colias). 4. SPANISH MACKEREL (Scomberomorus maculatus).
5. ALBACORE (Germo alalonga).