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Chub Mackerel Fishing Guide: How to Catch, Clean, and Cook Pacific Mackerel

Don’t be scared, give chub mackerel a try!

chub mackerel pacific mackerel cutting board
A nice 1.5lb chub mackerel I caught off Marina Del Rey.

Chub Mackerel (Pacific Mackerel) Facts

Common Name Blue mackerel, chub mackerel, striped mackerel, American mackerel, greenback jack, Japanese mackerel, macarela (Mexico), Pacific mackerel
Scientific Name (Genus and Species) Scomber japonicus
Family Scombridae
Identifying Characteristics These are a slender torpedo looking fish that have a dark green/blue back with wavy dark lines. Their bellies are white and they have 4-6 finlets near their tail.

 

They have a large eye and eyelid.

Chub Mackerel Habitat They are found in temperate and tropical waters all the way from Alaska down to the Gulf of California. These fish have a wide territory and can be near shore and offshore.
Depth Range Pacific mackerel have been known to go to 990 feet, but prefer to stay near the water surface.
Chub Mackerel Fishing Information These fish are attracted to shiny and bright objects. That’s why you’ll see a lot of anglers fishing with glowsticks at night off of piers. This also means they’ll aggregate around oil platforms or anything with lights in the water.

 

These mackerel are abundant from inshore between July and November and offshore from March to May.

They are fast and powerful swimmers and provide a fun fight for angling.

Chub Mackerel Diet

These fish seem to eat everything. They’ll primarily go for squid, fish, and large zooplankton (copepods and krill).

Chub Mackerel Size Pacific mackerel have been known to reach 25 inches. They grow fast while young, but after their first two years, their growing process slows down.

 

At two years old they’ll be around 12 inches long and 8-years old will be around 18 inches.

Chub Mackerel Lifespan Some Chub mackerel can live up to 11 years.
Can You Eat Chub Mackerel? Chub mackerel is safe to eat. 

 

Most people will be safe eating up to 4 servings of these fish per week.

Endangered Status Least Concerned

For more information about Chub mackerel (Pacific mackerel), check out the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative.

Chub Mackerel (Pacific Mackerel) Fishing

Chub mackerel are easy to catch and much of what we wrote in our Spanish mackerel guide applies to this fish.

Since our other guide talks more about catching these mackerel with a Sabiki rig, we’ll focus this guide on using lighter outfits to play with these fish a bit more before bringing them in.

How to Catch Chub Mackerel

Let’s chat about fishing for Pacific Chub Mackerel.

baby chub mackerel
A baby pacific mackerel Source

They actually fight really well on light tackle. They are a schooling type fish and many locals fishing from boats and piers keep these fish to eat.

In British Columbia, they are actually invasive and have been one of the reasons for the declining salmon population, so if you’re up in that area, don’t throw them back. They actually come up from the southern waters because of the warm current and they pretty much eat all the salmon fry.

A light spinning outfit, like four-pound test and it’s pretty awesome.

These aren’t picky fish.

I’ve seen anglers catch these on a little rooster tail. It’s a primarily freshwater fishing lure and it works great. They just go crazy over them and work on the light road as well.

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These fish are fast. Most of them are around a foot long, but sometimes you get lucky and can catch some bigger ones.

chub mackerel drawing
The beautiful lines of the mackerel are amazing Source

Pacific Chub Mackerel Baits

Here’s a list of baits and lures that I’ve caught these fish on:

Most of the time you’ll catch these fish while you’re trying for other species. To anglers on party boats, these will be looked at more as a nuisance than a fish to target.

How to Clean Chub Mackerel

This really is an awesome fish. This fish doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s cheap to buy, easy to catch, it’s flavorful (although some don’t like the taste). It’s an oily fish that’s full of omega-3 healthy fats. It’s good for you fish. Let’s take the fish that you’ve just caught and taken the fillets off, pan fry it, and serve it with some pickled beetroot salad.

chub mackerel ready to cook
It’s always great to start with a freshly caught mackerel for any recipe.

First, start by making an incision around to the head without going through the backbone. Once you’ve joined the two head cuts, pull the head off and you’ll get most of the guts out in one go.

It’s a handy trick for small fish like these.

Next, we need to take the fillets off. Put your knife along the backbone where the head used to be and cut all the way down to the tail. Remove that fillet, flip the fish over and doing it to the other side.

We haven’t finished yet.

You’ll need to take out the bones down the lateral lines. You’ll this with the knife making a V-cut down the center of the fillet. The bones will then come out as one solid unit. Do this to the other fillet and you’ll be left with two boneless fillets ready for the pan.

Chub Mackerel Recipe

According to some of my English friends, they recommend pairing a mackerel with something that has sweet tartness because it’s just quite an oily fish. That paired flavor cuts through that fattiness.

Now that we have our fillets, it’s time to throw them on the heat.

Get your pan nice and hot.

If you have large fillets, don’t be afraid to cut them in half so you can share with your friends. Rub some olive oil on the skin side of the fish and add a little salt.

chub mackerel back waves
Look at the waves on the back of these fish. The colors are beautiful.

Once you put the fish in the pan skin side down, the key thing to remember is don’t fickle with the fish. Don’t move them, barely touch them so they cook and get a nice crisp skin. We’ll cook these three-quarters of the way done on the skin side then turn over for that last couple of minutes to finish up.

Press Your Fillets Down

Once your pan is nice and hot, put your fillets in skin side down. Use your hand to put a little bit of pressure on the fillets to increase the surface contact of the skin on the pan. If the fish puff up you know it’s fresh. It should be fresh because you caught it the day of :).

After a few minutes, flip the fillets over and cook the other side.

Plate the fish and it’s ready to eat. If you’d like, pair it with a pickled beetroot salad. Here’s a simple recipe to try out, which could be made the day before you cook your chub mackerel.

Pickled Beetroot Salad

Ingredients

  • Two large beetroots
  • 125ml white wine vinegar
  • 125ml your favorite jam
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  • Put salt on an oven tray and cut up some beets and roast them in the oven for an hour and a half.
  • Then add 125ml of white wine vinegar and add 125ml of your choice of jam to give it that sweetness into a pan and reduce that down to a glaze.
  • Add in a teaspoon of mustard.
  • Spread the mixture on top of the roasted beetroots.
  • Put the mixture in the fridge to chill overnight.

Chub Mackerel Final Thoughts

The chub mackerel isn’t commonly known as an eating fish in all circles and some people either love them or hate them. Having caught a few large ones myself and ate them, I’d have to say I’m a fan.

They are full of healthy omega-3 oils, they aren’t overly fished to the point that you should be concerned and you can eat up to 4 servings per week in Southern California.

Overall, this is a great staple fish to eat on the regular.

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