Targeting King Mackerel With Capt. Xavier Baldoquin
Salt Life Approved Charter Captain Xavier Baldoquin grew up in Ft. Lauderdale fishing for bass in South Florida’s fresh waters. He spent every free minute he had learning about the sport. As he got older and started earning money, he also started buying boats. He eventually started trading his boats for bigger boats, and the rest is history.
Eventually, Xavier decided to get his captain's license and start his own charter company. Salt Life sat down with Captain X and he shared his knowledge of king mackerel and the basics for snagging your own.
The king mackerel is an iridescent silver and black fish that has a distinctive forked tail and pointed nose. Mackerel are a popular game fish that are most often found in warm coastal waters. According to Capt. X, mackerel catches range anywhere from 10lbs to 30lbs, but they’ve been recorded over 90lbs. Mackerel usually average 2-3 feet in length.
Dining on Mackerel
There is nothing better than eating fresh mackerel straight off the boat, but there's a caveat. The best tasting king mackerel are the smaller fish. Capt. X told us that the bigger catches tend to be gamier, so they are best suited to being smoked or used in recipes like a seafood dip.
Something to keep in mind. King mackerel are at the top of the FDA’s list for contamination and danger of mercury poisoning when eaten. Just don’t overdo it!
Targeting King Mackerel
King mackerel are migrating fish, which means that you can fish for them all year round. They are best to fish for in northern coastal regions in the spring, and as they begin heading south in the fall, you can follow them down the coast. Capt. X noted that they prefer water around 74-75 degrees and like the greener water closer to the beach.
Capt. X warns that mackerel have long sharp teeth, and they’ll shred your leaders if you aren’t using the right rig. He recommends using your plot finder and try trolling planers with Bonita strips. If the mackerel are eating near the surface, you can even throw out a pilcher with a circle or J hook. They’ll chase baits on the surface and jump 5-6ft. Just be careful they don’t bite right through your leader.
King mackerel can be caught with artificial and live bait. For live bait, try bluefish, pilchards, blue runners, or threadfin herring. Capt. X likes to use frozen Ribbon fish and says the mackerel love them.
Capt. X told us that mackerel tend to stay in schools, although sometimes the bigger fish tend to be loners. They prefer hard bottom locations and they like to spend their time preying on grouper at the bottom, sometimes 250ft down.
Capt. X says when the mackerel bite, they will peel straight out at about 50mph so be prepared for the fight of your life. If you catch them, watch their teeth. You don’t want to fight them once you’ve got them in your boat or you could end up hurt and regretting it.
Ready to learn more?
Capt. X goes into depth on his latest Above and Below; A Salt Life Podcast episode. Check it out down below. Thanks, Capt. X for all of the tips. We're already gathering our fishing poles.