Only Catch What You Need
If ever there was a fish that deserved better treatment, then mackerel Scomber scombrus is certainly it. Caught in the thousands by seaside holidaymakers on two-hour trips around the bay, bunged in a carrier bag for the drive back home and then dumped in the bin, a wasteful end to such a fantastic fish. We take an icebox!
Commercially Caught Mackerel
Millions of commercially caught mackerel end up on the supermarket wet slab. Fish several days old slowly drying out under fluorescent lights, turning greyer by the hour. Shoppers wrinkle their noses in distaste and buy some farmed salmon instead. Those who buy it on cost chew their way through a bland, slightly rancid piece of an insole. If every shopper could be given mackerel two hours out of the sea I think their opinion would change overnight.
More detailed information about our native Atlantic mackerel can be found here.
Healthy and Tasty
Mackerel is an oily fish, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which reduce cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, one downside to this is that it deteriorates rapidly after being caught. Anything more than two days old is certainly poor eating and same-day mackerel is undoubtedly the best. Fresh from the sea it is a deep, fluorescent green over its tiger stripe camouflage. This fades to a bluer shade soon after the obligatory knock on the head.
Freshly caught mackerel is meaty, firm and flavourful, its ‘fishiness’ is decidedly muted when really fresh. By this, I’m talking on the barbecue within two hours of leaving the sea. Get some like this and you really are eating one of the finest tasting fish from our waters. To do this you need to either catch some yourself or meet a day boat when it reaches the harbour.
How to Catch Mackerel
Fortunately, during the summer months, they reach shallow waters in huge numbers. They chase shoals of sand eel and sprats, this makes them easily accessible from harbour walls and rocks. Pound-for-pound mackerel are hard-fighting fish, and their sport is only limited by their size. You can fish for them with light spinning gear but a three or four-feather rig is a must.
If you are fishing from the rocks, pier or harbour wall, cast followed by a gentle retrieve using sink and draw. Pay attention to other anglers, patches of disturbed water, and signs of birds feeding for an indicator that mackerel are present.
Alternatively, pick some up from a boat when it comes into harbour. But the important message that I’m trying to hammer home is get them as fresh as you possibly can.
Preparing Your Fish
So, you get your fish home and you need to prepare it. First make an incision from the anal vent to the head, keeping the cut shallow to avoid piercing the guts. Then insert your thumb and run along the cavity to remove the guts. Next, locate the dark bloodline that runs along the backbone and scrape it out with a teaspoon or blunt knife. Run the fish under a cold tap and pull out any bits of guts that may remain in the cavity.
If you need mackerel fillets then follow the technique shown below by Jack Stein.
If you would like a pair of fish pin bone tweezers like the one shown in Jack Stein’s video you can buy a reasonably priced pair online.
Other Recipes You Maybe Interested in …..
My favourite dish is Devilled Mackerel; the recipe below is taken from Rick Stein’s Seafood.
Grandads Cookbook may reference or include sections of text and images reproduced courtesy of:
- Rick Stein
- Jack Stein
Size and Catch Limits
Please observe minimum size limits when fishing.
Use a measure like this one from Tronixpro.