posted: 01/15/13
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Credit: Mark Lewis/Getty Images |

Informally, a Kingfish, is a person with authority, a leader. Populist Louisiana politician Huey Long adopted Kingfish as a nickname. And, there was a 1970s rock band called Kingfish. But when sport fishermen talk about kingfish, they usually mean Scomberomorus cavalla, also known as the king mackerel.

A Migratory Hunter

The king mackerel is found along the Atlantic coast of the Americas, from New England to Brazil, and in the Gulf of Mexico as well. It doesn't like waters colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit, so kingfish that live off the eastern coast of the United States migrate south in the fall and return north in the spring.

The kingfish is the biggest of the mackerels, topping out at 5.5 feet in length and around 100 pounds, though on average, kingfish are closer to 20 inches and 20 pounds. It's a strikingly handsome fish, with an iridescent silver and iron-gray exterior and a mouth full of nasty-looking teeth. It differs from its cousin the Spanish mackerel in having a sharply dipping lateral line and a gray anterior dorsal fin instead of a black one.

Kingfish spawn from April to November. Males reach adulthood between their second and third year, and females mature between three and four years. Kingfish dine on migratory squid and shrimp. Kingfish sometimes leap out of the water in pursuit of their prey, and pictures of them displaying their Michael Jordan-like hang-time make great posters for sport-fishing tournaments.

Be Ready for a Fight

Kingfish are prized catches for sport fishermen. Not only do they look impressively fierce, but they put up a spectacular struggle, leaping out of the water in an attempt to break free. You can catch kingfish from the shore or from a pier, or from a drifting, trolling or anchored boat offshore. Use at least a 20-pound line and tackle, because those sharp teeth can shred a lighter line. You can use live or dead bait or an artificial lure. They're most likely to go after spoons, jigs and other flashy subsurface lures.

Why You Should Throw It Back

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that king mackerel contain high quantities of mercury, so you can't serve kingfish fillets to pregnant women or kids. Besides that, when you pose with your kingfish, you run the risk of somebody taunting you with, "Hey, isn't that actually a Spanish mackerel?"

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