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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 21:23 EDT

Pacific jack mackerel

The Pacific jack mackerel, Trachurus symmetricus, is a species of fish in the family Carangidae. It is common in the north-eastern Pacific, from south-east Alaska to southern Baja. It is a pelagic fish, often found in large schools. Young frequently school near kelp and under piers.

It grows up to 32 in (81 cm) long. It has a spinous dorsal fin slightly higher than its soft dorsal fin. Its pectoral fin ends before the front of the anal fin. It has scutes are located along the lateral line with the ones at the front smaller. The lateral line dips strongly at the end of the pectoral fin. In some large individuals, the last few rays at rear of soft dorsal and anal fins are almost entirely separate from the rest of the fin-like finlets.

Pacific jack mackerel are metallic blue to olive-green above; silvery below with a dark spot on upper rear of gill cover. The top of head and area near the eye are quite dark. The fins are mostly clear, but the caudal fin yellowish to reddish. They live in the upper part of the ocean, from the surface down to about 328 ft (100 m). They feed on crustaceans, other pelagic organisms, and small fishes.

Commercial Use

Pacific jack mackerel are fished commercially as well as for sport. They are often caught on baited hook from piers and boats, and also often while salmon trolling. Commercial fishing occurs along the coast. Large individuals often move inshore and north in the summer.

Pacific jack mackerel is canned in the same manner as salmon. Fish are cleaned, gutted and finned, then packed into cans with salt and water. Pacific jack mackerel is almost as common as canned salmon in grocery stores. It is generally less expensive than salmon. In the past mackerel consumption was considered a sign of low income. In segregated Southern states, it was often associated with black Americans. Today, most of these stereotypes are gone.

Pacific jack mackerel tastes similar to canned salmon. It can be used interchangeably with salmon or tuna in recipes, but it may be safer to consume than tuna because it is a smaller fish and not a top predator, so it does not accumulate heavy metals such as mercury.

Pacific jack mackerel