Spanish mackerel are one of our favorite types of game fish to fish for from shore. They hit many different types of lures, and are some of the fastest fish in the ocean. We like fishing for them off of piers when we visit our friends in Florida, as well from shore during the mullet run. But after all the hard work has paid off and you’ve caught one, are Spanish mackerel good to eat?
The short answer is yes, they are great to eat! In this article, we’ll go over what Spanish mackerel tastes like, what you should do if you want to eat it raw, as well as how to clean and prepare Spanish mackerel. Next time you catch one, you’ll know exactly what to do!
What Does Spanish Mackerel Taste Like?
Contrary to popular opinion, we think Spanish mackerel tastes great if treated correctly after catching it. Spanish mackerel tastes very mild in flavor with a slightly acidic note and light oil. The meat is quite firm, and flakes off into small chunks when cooked. It’s very similar to how Wahoo and Mahi Mahi taste as well as Striped Bass or Dogtooth Tuna.
Author Note: We think the flavor and texture make it perfect for steaks on the grill with cajun seasoning or a white cream sauce. Many fishermen we’ve talked to have described Spanish mackerel as having the same firmness and texture as sailfish.
Can You Eat Spanish Mackerel Raw?
Yes, you can eat Spanish mackerel raw. You should follow raw fish consumption guidelines, however, by freezing your Spanish mackerel for at least negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 days or negative 31 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 hours. This freezing process will kill any parasites in the fish that you may have missed while cleaning it. Raw Spanish mackerel is great served as sashimi or part of a sushi roll calling for white fish. We like eating it with a dash of wasabi as well. Delicious!
Is Spanish Mackerel High in Mercury?
Compared to smaller species of fish, yes Spanish mackerel is high in mercury. This means you should limit the amount you eat on a regular basis. Why do Spanish mackerel have high mercury levels?
Because they are a predatory fish that is near the top of the food chain. Predatory fish collect mercury from the smaller fish they eat, who collect it from the smaller fish that they eat. The higher up you go on the food chain, the more mercury fish have.
Tackle Needed for Spanish Mackerel
If you don’t already have the proper tackle for Spanish mackerel, here’s a quick list of our top choices for equipment. Most medium-sized saltwater setups will work great, but if you’re looking to buy new tackle this is a great place to start.
Rod and Reel
We recommend using a medium saltwater fishing reel and a medium fishing rod. Surf fishing rods work especially well if you plan on fishing far from shore, otherwise use a medium/heavy inshore rod for mackerel. If you’re trying to decide between a normal saltwater spinning reel and surfcasting reel, we recommend going with a traditional saltwater spinning reel.
As far as mackerel fishing line goes, we recommend staying away from fluorocarbon and using monofilament or braided line. This will improve your casting distance and is easiest to work with. If you use braided line, be sure to tie a thick monofilament leader of at least 4 feet onto the end. Mackerel have great eyesight and will be able to see the colored braided line.
Hooks and Leader
If you’re planning on using live bait, mullet work great for mackerel. Use a medium-sized circle hook and a 40 lb monofilament leader for extra strength to prevent Spanish mackerel’s sharp jaws from cutting through it.
Spanish Mackerel Lures
For artificial lures, we recommend using large topwater plugs, spoons, or jigs. Check out our more in-depth article on the best mackerel lures to learn more. Another super affordable option is to use a bubble rig for Spanish mackerel or try using a live baitfish they like to eat.
Spanish mackerel are notorious for having razor-sharp teeth and prove dangerous when trying to unhook them with your bare hands. We recommend getting a pair of saltwater fishing pliers to keep your hands safe.
How to Clean Spanish Mackerel
Once you’ve caught a Spanish mackerel that you want to eat, you should immediately cut its gills to let it bleed out. This will preserve the flavor of the meat and remove some of the stronger flavors in the blood.
Author Note: After cutting the gills you should put the mackerel on ice and clean it as soon as possible. Here’s how to clean Spanish mackerel.
- The first step in cleaning Spanish mackerel is to make sure you have a very sharp knife. The bigger bones and thick flesh will require a sharper knife than is needed for a smaller fish!
- Begin by cutting down the mackerel’s belly starting from the anal fins up to the pelvic fins and the beginning of the collar.
- Next, reach up inside the mackerel and pull out the innards. You may need to use shears to cut them loose if they are stuck to the rib cage.
- Wash away the blood and extra gut from your workstation then cut through the collar and remove the head. You can either dispose of this or use it for shark bait/chumming.
- Next, it’s time to cut out your fillets. Make a cut across the end of the tail on both sides. Then connect the cut your already made on the belly to the end of the tail.
- Make a cut from the top of the backbone starting at the collar and going all the way down to the tail. Move your blade all the way down the spine while cutting through the skeletal bones.
- You can then use your shears or knife to cut away the fillet from the collar of the mackerel.
- The last step is to remove as many of the pin bones as you can with a pair of needle-nose pliers. This step can be time-consuming but will give you bone-free mackerel steaks!
How to Prepare Spanish Mackerel
There are many different ways to prepare Spanish mackerel, but our favorite it to use cajun seasoning and either grill or bake the fillets. Here’s our recipe.
- ½ cup of melted butter.
- 4 teaspoons of Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun Seasoning.
- 2 cloves of minced garlic.
- 3 or 4 filets of Spanish mackerel.
- 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Melt butter in a glass bowl in the microwave.
- Dip your mackerel fillets in the melted butter.
- Dredge the filets through the dry ingredients.
- In a large pan, throw in a knob of butter and sear the filets on each side for 2 minutes.
- Put the seared filets on a baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for ~30 minutes.
- Let cool, and enjoy!
Spanish mackerel are a ton of fun to catch and are good to eat if cleaned and prepared correctly. We hope after reading this article you now know that Spanish mackerel are good to eat and have an idea on how to prepare them. If you want more recipes, check out our article on cooking Giant Trevally for more info.
Also, check out our guide on the best Kingfish lures for more inspiration. Got your own Spanish mackerel recipe that tastes great? Let us know about it in the comments below.