Atlantic Mackerel vs Pacific Chub Mackerel: The Differences

Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub mackerel have many similarities. For this reason many people ask about their differences. Let’s answer, what is the difference between Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub mackerel?

Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub are different species. Atlantic mackerel is the S. scombrus species, Pacific chub mackerel is the S. japonicus species. Atlantic mackerel are common in the Atlantic Ocean, and Pacific chub are found in the Pacific Ocean. Atlantic mackerel have a dark streaky line which Pacific chub doesn’t have.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients, habitats and appearance.

As a Certified Health Coach many clients ask me about seafood including mackerel. In addition to coaching clients about them, I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both prior to, during and after writing this article.

Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Chub Mackerel: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

When shopping in the fish market, supermarket or fishing, the type of fish may not be immediately recognized. For this reason, this section will lay out a simple method for how each one can be distinguished. 

Let’s examine how each mackerel is different and to tell them apart.

To tell the difference between an Atlantic mackerel and a Pacific chub mackerel check for a dark streaky line running down the side of the body. Atlantic mackerel have the streaky line, and Pacific chub does not. Atlantic mackerel’s back color is an iridescent blue green. Pacific chub mackerel’s coloring is a darker green.

Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Chub Mackerel Science Classifications, Families, Species

Atlantic mackerel are from:

  • Family: Scombridae
  • Genus: Scomber
  • Species: S. scombrus
  • Common nicknames: Mackerel, Boston mackerel, common mackerel, Norwegian mackerel.

Pacific chub mackerel are from:

  • Family: Scombridae
  • Genus: Scomber
  • Species: S. japonicus
  • Common nicknames: Pacific mackerel, chub mackerel, pacific chub, chub.

They are from the same family and genus but are a different species.

What is a Horse Mackerel?

The pacific jack mackerel was originally called horse mackerel. The FDA allowed the name to be officially changed in 1948 to increase its marketability.

How About Cero Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel?

Both cero and spinach mackerels are found in the Atlantic Ocean off the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. They are from the same family as Atlantic but are a different species.

Sierra Mackerel

Sierra mackerel are found in the Pacific Ocean but are a different species than Pacific Chub or Pacific Jack.

Atlantic Chub Mackerel

Atlantic chub mackerel are found off the Atlantic coast in the Atlantic Ocean. They are a different species than the Chub mackerel found in the Pacific.

Atlantic mackerel and pacific chub mackerel photo comparison

Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Chub Mackerel Habitats

Atlantic mackerel habitats

  • They are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Canada down to the eastern coast of the United States to North Carolina. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, they are found from Iceland and Norway and south to Mauritania.
    • They are also found in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas.
  • They can be found in deeper waters from the surface dow to 660 feet deep. They prefer water above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pacific chub mackerel habitats

  • They are found in the Pacific Ocean from southeastern Alaska to the coast of California and down south to central Mexico. In the summer they can be found more north near the western coastline of Washington State.
  • They can be found in shallow waters to 1,000 feet deep. They prefer water between 50 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Both mackerel are found in different waters. They can both be found in Mexico and The United States but on different coastlines and oceans of each country.

Places where Pacific are found:

  • The western coastline of The United States.
  • The western coastline of Mexico.
  • The southeastern coastline of Alaska.

Places where Atlantic are found:

  • Eastern Canada
  • Eastern coastline of America
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Baltic Sea
  • Black Sea
  • Mediterranean Sea
pacific chub mackerel and Atlantic mackerel photo comparison
top 2 Pacific chub mackerel bottom Atlantic mackerel

Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Mackerel Appearance

Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Chub Mackerel Colors

  • Atlantic mackerel have an iridescent blue green back and upper sides, silvery white lower sides and belly. The top half of the body has 20-30 wavy black lines running down the length of the body.
    • There’s a dark streaky line running the length of the body half way up the sides, directly under the wavy lines and blueish green coloring.
  • Pacific chub mackerel have a dark blue back, silvery-green sides and belly. They have approximately 30 dark, wavy lines on the upper sides.

Both have wavy dark lines on their upper sides running down the body.

Dorsal Fins

  • Atlantic mackerel has two dorsal fins both having spines. The two dorsals are spaced far apart.
  • Pacific chub mackerel has two dorsal fins spaced far part. The front dorsal has about 9 to 10 spines and the second dorsal has soft rays.

The Atlantic mackerel two dorsal fins have spines while the Pacific chub mackerel front dorsal is spiny and the second one having soft rays.

Anal Fins

  • Both have one anal fin each with soft rays and no spines.

Tail Fins

  • Both mackerel have a forked tail fin.

Mouth

  • Both mackerel mouths are large but doesn’t extend past the eye line.

 Both mackerel have sharp teeth inside their mouth on the lower and upper jaws.

Body Shape

  • Both mackerel have a long, narrow body which tapers towards the tail.

Distinguishing Marks

Atlantic Mackerel

  • They have 20-30 wavy dark lines on the upper sides running down the length of the body.
  • They have a dark, narrow, blotchy line running down their body on the sides.

Pacific Chub Mackerel

  • They have approximately 30 wavy dark lines on the upper sides down the length of the body.

Scales

  • The scales on both mackerel are tiny.

Mackerels Size and Weight

  • Atlantic mackerel averages 12-17 inches long and weighs 2.2 pounds.
  • Pacific chub mackerel averages 8-14 inches long and 6 pounds. They weigh a maximum up to 13 pounds.

Lifespan

  • Atlantic mackerel lives up to 20 years.
  • Pacific chub mackerel lives up to 18 years.

If you’re interested in the differences between a king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, check out my article, Spanish Mackerel vs King Mackerel – What’s The Difference?

Diet of Both Mackerels

Atlantic mackerel consumes the following:

  • Krill
  • Shrimp
  • Copepods
  • Small fish
  • Squid
  • Plankton

Pacific chub mackerel consumes the following:

  • Plankton
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Shrimp
  • Krill
  • Crustaceans

Some populations of mackerels have seen some declines in recent years but are not considered an endangered species.

Species Resources 1 2

Raw mackerel ready for cooking
Raw mackerel ready for cooking

Tastes and Textures

One of the main reasons people chooses a particular food to eat is its taste and texture. At the end of the day, nobody wants to eat something they don’t think tastes good. When comparing the two, let’s determine if each one tastes the same or if one is better.

Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub mackerel have a similar medium flavor. Their taste is not considered mild or sweet. Both mackerel have an oilier flesh due to their higher fat content. Both have a similar firm texture which breaks apart into flakes. 

Atlantic mackerel have a medium taste. The flesh is slightly oily due to its fat content. The texture is firm and flaky.

Pacific chub mackerel is good to eat and have a medium taste. It is slightly oily due to its high fat content. The texture is firm and breaks apart easily into flakes.

Depending where the mackerel was caught, it may taste slightly fishy to some people. Although most people don’t think it’s too fishy. Many people think it tastes like tuna.

To conduct some original research, I polled clients, members of food groups I belong to and some readers. The following are the results of my poll which consisted of 26 people.

I asked which mackerel tasted better?

  • 51% preferred the taste of Atlantic mackerel.
  • 46% preferred the taste of Pacific chub mackerel.
  • 3% said they had no preference between the two.

If you’re interested in a comparison of a king mackerel, check out my article.

The video explains how to cook mackerel.

Substitutions

It’s not always possible to locate the type of food item required for your recipe in the local fish market or store. In addition, you may have one already in the refrigerator ready to be used. If you have one mackerel only, you may be wondering if you can substitute one for the other.

Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub can substitute for each other due to their similar medium flavors. Both mackerels can be cooked using the same cooking methods due to their firm textures. They can be cooked by baking, broiling, frying, searing and grilling. 

Atlantic mackerel substitutes include the following:

  • Northern pike
  • Bass
  • Tuna
  • Catfish
  • Salmon
  • Bullhead

Pacific chub mackerel substitutes include the following:

  • Tuna
  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Northern pike
  • Bullhead
  • Salmon

When substituting either mackerel always stick to the following:

  • Similar cuts of fillet.
  • Same size and weight.
  • Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
  • Similar texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling 3.

How To Cook 

Some people may find both a little fishy therefore the preparation is important. Many people soak the fish in icy water or milk, rinse the fillets and soak the fish again. Repeat this process until the flesh of the fish and the water become clearer.

For the anglers, always keep mackerel cold as soon as possible and eat the fish within one or two days. Both will help with the fishy flavor.

Popular ways to cook Atlantic mackerel include:

  • Baking
  • Broiling
  • Grilling
  • Frying
  • Searing

Atlantic mackerel flavor pairings:

  • Lemon
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • Cajun
  • Smoked paprika

The following video explains how to cook Spanish Mackerel.

Popular ways to cook Pacific chub mackerel:

  • Grilling
  • Baking
  • Broiling
  • Searing
  • Frying

Flavor pairings for Pacific chub mackerel:

  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • White wine
  • Cajun

In a recent article I compared Cero and Spanish mackerels. Find out how they differ in my article, Spanish Mackerel vs Cero Mackerel – What’s The Difference?

Cost

The prices for either one will vary depending on how they were caught and where they’re sold. When purchasing any seafood, be sure to check the label to see if it’s wild caught or farm-raised. Therefore, which mackerel costs more?

Pacific chub mackerel and Atlantic mackerel fillets and whole fish have a similar price per pound. Whole Atlantic mackerel fish averages $13.39 per pound.

I conducted a search online for the most popular websites selling mackerel online. Some have stores locally. Currently, I was unable to locate any Pacific chub fillets or whole fish. The following are the stores I checked and found prices for Atlantic mackerel.

I checked the Fulton fish market online for prices:

  • Wild whole Atlantic mackerel
    • $15.98 per pound

I also checked Citarella online for prices:

  • Whole Atlantic mackerel fish
    • $10.80 per pound
Kevin Garce checking prices of catfish and seafood in his local supermarket
Checking prices of mackerel catfish bass and seafood in my local market

Mercury Levels

The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 4. This is especially important for the following:

  • Pregnant women
  • Developing children
  • Young infants

They established a list of the following:

  • Best fish
  • Good choices
  • Fish to avoid

Therefore, let’s find out which one has more mercury.

Atlantic mackerel and Pacific chub mackerel have similar levels of mercury and are listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish regarding mercury levels. 

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

Mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 5.

Nutrition

They both contain a variety of nutrients beneficial for health. Most notable are the omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals. The following nutrients can be found in both mackerel:

  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • B Vitamins
    • Folate
    • Riboflavin
    • Niacin
    • Thiamin
    • B5
    • B6
    • B12
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium

Below is a list of nutrients provided per four ounces:

Nutrient Atlantic mackerel, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 232
Fat 16 g
Saturated Fat 3.7 g
Cholesterol 79 mg
Protein 21 g
Omega-3 2.85 g
B-6 0.4 mg
B-12 9.8 mcg
Thiamin 0.20 mg
Riboflavin 0.35 mg
B5 0.9 mg
Iron 1.8 mg
Niacin 10.2 mg
Folate 1.1 mcg
Potassium 356 mg
Magnesium 86 mg
Phosphorus 246 mg
Calcium 13.6 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg
Selenium 50.0 mcg

Nutrient Resources 6 7

The nutrients listed above provide many health benefits, especially for the heart and blood vessels. Keep reading the next section explaining how each nutrient, especially omega-3s, benefit the body and cardiovascular system.

Find out which mackerel contained more omega-3 and protein, Atlantic or Spanish, in my article.

Health Benefits

Editor’s Note: The information on Food Storage, Choices and Alternatives is meant to be informative in nature and not meant to be taken as medical advice. The articles and opinions on this website are unintended to be used as as a treatment, prevention or diagnosis of health problems. Before modifying or starting any new nutritional, food, fitness, exercise or/and supplement routine, always check with your doctor first.

The video explains the health benefits of mackerel and other fish.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided include the following:

  1. B1 (thiamin)
  2. B2 (riboflavin)
  3. B3 (niacin)
  4. B5
  5. B6
  6. B9 (folate)
  7. B12

B vitamins help support the following:

  • Red blood cells.
  • Digestion.
  • Brain function.
  • Nerve function.
  • Energy levels.
  • Cardiovascular disease.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Atlantic mackerel provides one of the highest percentages of omega-3 fatty acids in the seafood world. It provides 2.85 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per four ounces.

The fatty acids provided help keep arteries healthy and are considered heart healthy. Many people who have a diet low in Omega-3s supplement to make up for the difference.

The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Reduce plaque buildup.
  • Help regulate heart rhythms.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Lowering triglycerides.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.

Many studies suggest omega-3s boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, they’ve been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 8.

Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 9. It’s able to accomplish this because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 10.

Magnesium helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Calcium

Calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart.

Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 11.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Helps muscles function properly.
  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Improve nerve function.

Selenium

Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many people don’t write about it more. Many studies 12 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system
Mackerel fillets
Mackerel fillets

Potassium

Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 13.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 14.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 15.

Phosphorus

Phosphorous has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

  • Promote healthy nerve conduction.
  • Promote teeth and bone strength.
  • Help the body store and manage energy.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Muscle contraction.
  • Help the kidneys remove waste.

Another Mackerel vs Mackerel article I recently published, Chub Mackerel vs Jack Mackerel: What’s The Difference?

Read Next – More Articles!

Walleye vs Cod – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare Them

Brown Trout vs Salmon – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare

Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

Pacific Cod vs Sockeye (Pacific Salmon) Which Is Better?

Anchovies vs Sardines: What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. NOAA Fisheries: Atlantic Mackerel[]
  2. NOAA Fisheries: Pacific Mackerel[]
  3. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions[]
  4. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  6. USDA: Fish, mackerel, Atlantic, raw[]
  7. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, Atlantic, mackerel[]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  9. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  11. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  12. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  13. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  14. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  15. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]

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