The Atlantic Mackerel’s (Scomber scombrus) impressive range stretches from Labrador to North Carolina in the western Atlantic and from Iceland to Northern Africa in the eastern Atlantic. Populations of Atlantic Mackerel have also been found in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black seas. Closer to home, the Atlantic Mackerel inhabits the gulf of Maine and frequent visitor to our coastal bays and inlets during the mid summer months.
Close to thirty different species, share the common name “mackerel”, a term meaning "marked" or "spotted."
The Atlantic Mackerel’s nickname originates from the 20-30 dark wavy bands, overlaying the fishes blue-green colored back. The bands run across the back, from the fish’s head to tail and stretching down the body to approximately the midline. From the midline to the fish’s belly, the coloration changes to a brilliant silvery white iridescence. The stripes at first may appear to provide camouflage but that is not the case, scientists have determined that the strips help the Atlantic Mackerel properly communicate body movements with each other while schooling and feeding.
The Atlantic Mackerel reproduces in early summer, with a majority of the spawning occurring in the Gulf of Maine during the months of June and July. Prolific broadcast spawners, females produce and distribute as many as 1,000,000 eggs that in turn receive fertilization by males. After spawning, Atlantic Mackerel do not protect their eggs and offspring; instead eggs float free in the open ocean until hatching. Juveniles feed on plankton until reaching a size where they become capable of consuming small crustaceans, fish, shrimp and squid.
Most of the Atlantic Mackerel caught in Maine waters reach an average length of around 15-16 inches and weigh approximately 2-3 pounds. A few luck anglers occasionally pull larger, trophy size Atlantic Mackerel out of Maine’s coastal waters each summer reaching a hefty 4+ pounds. A mackerel for the record books would weigh 7+pounds.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the range of the Atlantic Mackerel?
2. How many species of “Mackerel” exist?
3. What does the term “mackerel” mean?
4. What is the purpose of the “stripes” on the back of an Atlantic Mackerel?
5. When does the Atlantic Mackerel reproduce?
6. How many eggs does a female Atlantic Mackerel produce?
7. What does the Atlantic mackerel feed upon?
8. How big is an Atlantic Mackerel?
9. What would a record book Atlantic Mackerel weigh?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The Atlantic Mackerel’s range stretches from Labrador to North Carolina in the western Atlantic and from Iceland to Northern Africa in the eastern Atlantic. Populations of Atlantic Mackerel have also been found in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black seas.
2. Close to thirty different species, share the common name “mackerel”.
3. The term “mackerel” means "marked" or "spotted."
4. Scientists have determined that the strips on the back of an Atlantic Mackerel help it properly communicate body movements with each other while schooling and feeding.
5. The Atlantic Mackerel reproduces in early summer, with a majority of the spawning occurring in the Gulf of Maine during the months of June and July.
6. Female Atlantic mackerel produce and distribute as many as 1,000,000 eggs.
7. The Atlantic Mackerel feeds upon plankton until reaching a size where they become capable of consuming small crustaceans, fish, shrimp and squid.
8. Most of the Atlantic Mackerel caught in Maine waters reach an average length of around 15-16 inches and weigh approximately 2-3 pounds. A few luck anglers occasionally pull larger, trophy size Atlantic Mackerel out of Maine’s coastal waters each summer reaching a hefty 4+ pounds.
9. An Atlantic Mackerel for the record books would weigh 7+ pounds.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Fishing and kids seem to go together better than helpless women and railroad tracks. It's one of those activities that youngster’s just pick-up easily and enjoy naturally, without any added pressure or encouragement. Put a fishing pole in the hands of a child and watch a strange transformation occur. Eyes glazed from watching too much TV are awakened, tongues wag no stop from exhilaration and little legs and arms vibrate with the excitement and anticipation of a possible catch. Even the most bored and despondent kids, will be transformed into industrious sportsmen in training, as their inquisitive minds attempt to unravel all of the mysteries of the fishing sport. As they delve deeper they will eventually come to realize that all aspects of “fishing” simply cannot be learned in a lifetime. Perhaps this is part of the attraction, the sport of fishing can be as complicated OR as simple as one desires. It need be no more complicated (unless one chooses) than a simple stick, line, hook and worm. It is a sport of the rich and poor alike and each has an equal chance of scoring a true personal trophy.
Know the Lingo: Fishing lingo, vernacular and jargon is often picked-up by sportsmen over a lifetime of pursuing fish. These words and catch phrases (no pun intended) are unique to the sport and when uttered for the first time by young kids, utterly adorable. Imagine a four year old telling you, with a look on his face as serious as a heart attack, that he thinks he just had a “dribble” and he better reel in the line to see if it still has a worm. If that doesn’t make you smile, how about picturing a five year old approaching a perfect stranger at the boat launch and asking “Hey Mistah, whatcha usein for bait?” When you finally reach the point in your child’s fishing education, where the kiddos are having random conversations with other “rival” fishermen at boat launches, it’s important that you sit them down and have a serious heart to heart talk about two of the most important aspect of fishing, secrets and exaggeration. In these ensuing conversations, children must be taught who can and cannot be trusted with fishing secrets and to whom and when it is perfectly acceptable to blatantly lie. For parents looking to speed up their child’s education, this might also be a good time to work in the “We don’t need to tell Mommy everything” discussion. Speaking of secrets, I almost rolled off the dock last week when my five year old brought his mouth close to my ear and in a low whisper said, "Daddy, I have a fishing secret, you haftah be careful when your fishing to be quite so you don't scare away the fish". This was funny, because it wasn’t something that I had ever directly taught him but rather was most likely something he garnered himself from our quiet interactions at the lake.
Whenever possible, ensure fishing with a child is a safe and enjoyable experience. Don’t expect every second to be perfect but make sure to create scenarios that kids will want to return to again and again. If something unexpected occurs (like someone gets hooked or falls off the dock), at least make sure to salvage the day with a trip to get ice cream. The trick is to always end on a good note AND while the kiddos are still wanting more. If they start screaming and crying when you tell them its time to go home, you have done your due diligence.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Fortunately on this day, I was trying out the Armachillo shirt and Dry on the Fly "work" pants by Duluth Trading Company. While most envision clothing from Duluth as “work wear”, let me assure you that these clothes are as suitable for use by fishermen, canoeists, backpackers and climbers.
Basically, if you plan to be outside in the oppressive summer heat, you want to be swathed in these two finely constructed Duluth products. While the shirt and pants are lightweight and breathable, they are constructed with a fabric that is incredibly tough and surprisingly soft.
Armachillo Shirt contains “made-in-the-jade” technology and the Dry on the Fly pants are constructed with integrated UPF 40 sun protection, creating a barrier to the suns rays that will allow you to have fun in the summer sun without feeling its wrath.
Do yourself a favor this summer and bring an end to being uncomfortable. Start enjoying your favorite outdoor pursuits with clothing from your hard working friends at Duluth Trading Company!
For more Maine outdoor adventure pictures, please join me on Instagram and Twitter as I tour our amazing state protected, dry and comfortable in "work" equipment and clothing by Duluth!
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Practice sessions, casting and reeling in lures, are wisely done absent of hooks, until kids develop the control needed to cast and retrieve effectively. Even then, parents/guardians will be wise to keep a watchful eye on an exuberant youngsters back casts. Casting practice is made more enjoyable for kids when you tie a hookless plastic bait (salamanders, worms, crayfish, fish, etc) onto the end of their line. The often wildly colorful lure and wiggling action make it difficult for any kid to resist exhibiting interest. Casting and retrieving on a lawn or driveway, affords a place for instruction that is readily accessible and free of some of the distractions found in more “fishy” situations. Parents need not worry about getting lures stuck in trees, on lake bottoms or anyone falling into the water. Start by having kids cast beyond a specific point, so they can slowly increase their casting distance. As distance improves, have them cast lures into hula hoops to help them improve accuracy. With continued practice, 5 year olds should be able, with guidance, to cast a hooked lure and reel in live fish, eels, mudpuppies, bullfrogs and anything else that bites their hook.
Atlantic Mackerel Fishing
If July temperatures become too hot on inland lakes and ponds, a trip to the coast to fish for Atlantic Mackerel might be more pleasant. The Eastport breakwater (Map 37, E-3) offers the perfect spot for anglers to cast from shore for these delectable fish. If the fish are schooling, success occurs easily with equipment as simple as a basic spin casting reel, medium weight fishing rod, and a diamond-style mackerel jig, Swedish pimple or any other flashy silver lure that can be found in a tackle box. Simply casting into a school of mackerel and allowing the lure to sink for a few seconds before rapidly retrieving is all that needs to be done to catch fish, usually LOTS of fish. Upon landing a fish, immediately cast back into the schooling fish as this will usually lead to multiple hook-ups for as long as the school remains in place.
Though not providing quite the same level of “sport”, lots of people fish for mackerel with “Christmas trees,” pre-made rigs consisting of several hooks attached to a main line, designed to catch several mackerel at once. Mastering fishing with one of these rigs requires anglers to manage to get all the hooks full of fish at the same time. Doing so requires not reeling in first fish hooked but instead, allowing it to swim freely about, attracting other mackerel to bite and become hooked on the open lures. Christmas trees serve as a good way to take lots of mackerel in a short amount of time but for the most fun, stick to a single lure as provides the best action-packed fight! As fun as mackerel are to catch, they are also simple to prepare for the dinner table.
Mackerel will quickly degrade in July's high temperatures, so anglers should bring along a cooler filled with ice large enough to accommodate the number of fish they intend to catch. This ensures that caught fish remain fresh until they can be processed. Young, “tinker” mackerel require simply removing the head, eviscerating and rinsing with cold water, while larger fish may require the added step of being butterflied so they lie flat enabling more even cook on the grill. Grilling is easily the most preferred method, as Mackerel tends to have a less appetizing “fishy” taste, if the oils are not allowed to drain out as the flesh is cooked.
Indian Rock Camps (AKA Camp Clearwaters), located in pristine Grand Lake Stream, will be hosting a completely free week at their camps for children and young adults (up to 40 years old) with cancer and their families. While there exist several children’s cancer camps in Maine, none allow admission by young adults, until now! Jo-Anne and Ken Cannell are happy to host this annual CELEBRATION OF LIFE in loving memory of their daughter Gretchen, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 12 and bravely fought this fight for 14 years. The camp is free to all Maine residents and reservations honored on a first come first serve basis. For more information, please contact Jo-Anne Cannell at 207-796-2822 or 1-800-498-2821.