Mackerel (Scomber scombrus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught mackerel can weigh 1.6 Kg (3½ lbs) or more. The average mackerel weighs around 0.55 Kg (1¼ lbs).

Also known as

Atlantic mackerel

IUCN Status

LC – Least Concern


The mackerel hunts its food in mid and upper waters, as such it is a fantastic swimmer with a streamlined elongated body which is metallic blue-green in colour and has wavy black bands along its back. Its body tapers into a highly forked tail and it has very small scales which provides it with a very soft texture.

The mackerel has prominent eyes and a pointed snout which houses its small, sharp teeth. It has two small dorsal fins which are spaced very far apart from each other and it also has a small anal fin.

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Live sandeels and fish strips, particularly herring, pilchard and sprat make ideal bait for catching mackerel.


Mackerel start to arrive in British waters at the start of May and June, remain throughout July and August and begin to depart through September and October. The largest catches are typically made during August.

Favourite Feeding Places

Mackerel are constantly on the move, chasing shoals of small fishing through the ocean, they typically hunt on or near the surface over any type of seabed.

Best Locations

The mackerel can be caught throughout all of Britain’s coastal waters.

Best rig for catching Mackerel

Shore Fishing

If fishing for mackerel from the shore, the best spots are piers, jetties, harbour walls or rocks and a sliding float rig is ideal from these locations.

Sliding Float Rig

For this rig you want to use a narrow float. Tie a stop knot onto the main line at the position where you want the float to stop. Modify when necessary to account for the rise and fall of the tide, etc. A ball or barrel shaped weight is perfect for this rig, attach the smallest weight needed in order to cast the distance you are aiming for and hold your bait against any strong current(s) at the depth you expect fish to be feeding. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft).

Top tip

  1. Gulls wheel and dive above surface-feeding mackerel shoals, as such they can be used to indicate the presence of mackerel, so watch for their position.
  2. Mackerel are known for pursuing shoals of small fish into estuaries, and occasionally well up rivers!