Chub Mackerel vs Jack Mackerel: What’s The Difference?

Pacific chub mackerel and pacific jack mackerel almost have the same name, and they swim in the same waters. For this reason many people wonder if they’re really the same. Therefore, is chub mackerel the same as jack mackerel?

Pacific chub mackerel and pacific jack mackerel are different species, family and genus. Pacific chub mackerel is the S. japonicas species and the Pacific jack mackerel is the T. symmetricus species. Jack mackerel doesn’t have the chub mackerel’s wavy lines, and they have much longer dorsal and anal fins.

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

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.

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

When shopping for a particular species of fish or fishing, the type of fish may not be easily recognized by appearance only. For this reason, this section of the article will inform you of a simple way to identify which fish is which.

When most people refer to chub mackerel or jack mackerel, they are referring to the Pacific chub mackerel and the Pacific jack mackerel.

Therefore, how can you tell the difference between the two?

To tell the difference between a Pacific chub mackerel and Pacific jack mackerel check their body side markings and dorsal fins. The Pacific chub mackerel has dark wavy lines on the sides which jack mackerel doesn’t have. The jack mackerel’s second dorsal fin is over twice as long as the chub mackerel’s second dorsal fin.

Additional ways to tell the difference:

  • Pacific jack mackerel has a lateral line running down the side of the body which has a sharp dip half way down. The Pacific chub mackerel doesn’t have a lateral line.
  • The anal fin of the Pacific jack mackerel has over twice the number of soft rays and length.

Both Mackerels Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Pacific chub mackerel are from:

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

Pacific jack mackerel are from:

  • Family: Carangidae
  • Genus: Trachurus
  • Species: T. symmetricus
  • Common nicknames: Jack mackerel, California jack mackerel, horse mackerel.

What is a Horse Mackerel?

Both mackerel are different species from different families and genus. The Pacific jack mackerel was originally called horse mackerel. The FDA allowed the name to be changed in 1948 to increase its market appeal.

Pacific Mackerel Fish Habitats

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.

Pacific jack mackerel habitats

  • They are found in the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to the coast of California and down to southern Mexico.
  • They can be found in shallow waters to 1,300 feet deep. They prefer water no less than 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Both mackerel are found in the same waters on the western coast of the United States from Alaska down to Mexico. They are not located on the Atlantic coast.

Pacific Chub Mackerel and Pacific Jack Mackerel Appearance

Pacific Chub Mackerel and Pacific Jack Mackerel Colors

  • Pacific chub mackerel have a dark blue back, silvery-green sides and belly. They have approximately 30 dark, wavy lines on the upper sides.
  • Pacific jack mackerel have a metallic blue to olive-green back and upper sides, transitioning to silvery sides and a white belly. The rear of the gill flap has a dark spot.

Pacific chub have wavy dark lines. Pacific jack don’t have wavy lines.

Dorsal Fins

  • 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.
  • Pacific jack mackerel has two dorsal fins. The second dorsal fin is much longer than the first. The first dorsal fin has 8-10 spines, and the longer second dorsal has 31 to 35 soft rays.

Both mackerel front dorsal are spiny and the second one having soft rays. The Pacific chub’s dorsals are spaced farther apart than the Pacific jack’s. The Pacific jack’s second dorsal is much longer.

Anal Fins

  • The Pacific chub mackerel has one anal fin having soft rays with no spines.
  • The Pacific jack mackerel has one anal fin having 2-3 spines followed by 26 to 30 soft rays.

The Pacific jack mackerel’s longer anal fin has many more soft rays.

Tail Fins

  • The Pacific chub mackerel tail fin is forked.
  • The Pacific jack mackerel tail fin is forked.

Mouth

  • The Pacific chub mackerel mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line.
  • The Pacific jack mackerel mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line.

Both mackerels have sharp teeth inside their mouth. The Pacific jack mackerel has a patch of teeth on the tongue.

Body Shape

  • The Pacific chub mackerel body is long, slender and tapers narrower towards the tail fin.
  • The Pacific jack mackerel body is long, slender and tapers narrower towards the tail fin.

Distinguishing Marks

Pacific Chub Mackerel

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

Pacific Jack Mackerel

  • Pacific jack mackerel have a long lateral line running down the side of the body. The lateral line begins higher and has a sharp dip half way down the body.
  • The lateral line has scales on the upper section and scutes on the lower section after the dip.
  • There is a small, dark spot on the rear of the gill flap.

Scales

  • Both mackerels have tiny scales.

Size and Weight

  • Pacific chub mackerel averages 8-14 inches long and 6 pounds. They weigh a maximum up to 13 pounds.
  • Pacific jack mackerel averages 21 inches long and weighs 5 pounds.
  • Typically, chub mackerel are a smaller fish.

Fish Lifespan

  • Pacific chub mackerel lives up to 18 years.
  • Pacific jack mackerel lives up to 30 years.

If you’re interested in the differences between a king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, check out my article.

Diet

Pacific chub mackerel consumes the following:

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

Pacific jack mackerel consumes the following:

  • Zooplankton
  • Anchovies
  • Krill
  • Shrimp
  • Small fish
  • Squid

Species Resources123

Pacific Mackerel Taste and Texture

Taste and texture are two main reasons why people choose a particular food to eat. After all, nobody wants to eat something they don’t think tastes good. When comparing the two, let’s find out if they taste the same and which one tastes better.

Pacific jack mackerel and Pacific chub mackerel have a similar medium flavor. Neither mackerel has a mild or sweet taste. Chub and jack mackerel have an oilier flesh than most others due to their higher fat content. They both have a similar firm texture which breaks apart into flakes. 

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

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

Depending where either 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, readers and members of food groups I belong to. The following are the results of my poll which consisted of 42 people.

I asked which mackerel tasted better?

  • 53% preferred the taste of Pacific jack mackerel.
  • 44% preferred the taste of Pacific chub mackerel.
  • 3% said they had no preference between the two.

If you’re interested in the differences between an Atlantic and king mackerel check out my article.

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

How to cook a pacific chub mackerel.

Substitutions

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

Pacific chub mackerel and Pacific jack mackerel can substitute for each other due to their similar medium flavors. They both can be cooked using the same cooking methods due to their firm textures. You can cook either one by baking, broiling, frying, searing and grilling. 

Pacific chub mackerel substitutes include the following:

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

Pacific jack mackerel substitutes include the following:

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

When substituting either one 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 grilling4.

How To Cook Either Fish

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

For the anglers, always keep any mackerel cold as possible and eat it within one or two days. This will help with the fishy flavor. Jack mackerel is popular as a canned fish.

Popular ways to cook Pacific jack mackerel include:

  • Searing
  • Frying
  • Baking
  • Broiling
  • Grilling

Jack mackerel flavor pairings:

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

Popular ways to cook Pacific chub mackerel:

  • Frying
  • Searing
  • Grilling
  • Baking
  • Broiling

Flavor pairings for Pacific chub mackerel:

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

In a recent article I compared Cero Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel. Find out how they differ in my article.

Cost of Chub Mackerel and Jack Mackerel

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

Pacific jack mackerel costs more than Pacific chub mackerel per ounce. Canned jack mackerel costs $0.21 per ounce and pacific chub mackerel costs $0.13 per ounce.

I conducted a search online for the most popular websites selling fish online. Some have stores locally. Currently, I was unable to locate any fresh mackerel or whole fish.

I was able to locate many canned mackerel everywhere:

  • Canned chub mackerel
    • $0.13 per ounce
  • Canned jack mackerel
    • $0.21 per ounce

Nutrition

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

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

Below is a list of nutrients provided:

Nutrient Jack mackerel, canned (4 Ounces)
Calories 177
Fat 7.1 g
Saturated Fat 2.1 g
Cholesterol 90 mg
Protein 26 g
Omega-3 1.51 g
B-6 0.2 mg
B-12 7.8 mcg
Thiamin 0.04 mg
Riboflavin 0.24 mg
B5 0.3 mg
Iron 2.3 mg
Niacin 7.0 mg
Folate 5.6 mcg
Potassium 220 mg
Magnesium 41 mg
Phosphorus 341 mg
Calcium 273 mg
Zinc 1.1 mg
Selenium 42.7 mcg

Nutrient Resources56

Keep reading below to find out how these nutrients in each mackerel compared to the other.

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

Mercury Levels

The FDA and EPA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels and how often each mackerel should be consumed7. This is especially important for the following:

  • Developing children
  • Young infants
  • Pregnant women

They established a list of the following:

  • Fish to avoid
  • Good choices
  • Best fish

Let’s take a look at both mackerels mercury.

Pacific jack 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 recommendations8.

Health Benefits

Editor’s Note: The information on Foods For Anti Aging 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.

One of the main reasons most fresh fish is healthy is due to its healthy fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. This section will explain why they, and the vitamins and minerals are so important.

This video explains the health benefits of mackerel and some other canned fish.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Mackerel provides one of the highest percentages of omega-3 fatty acids in the seafood world. The omega -3 fatty acids provided help keep arteries healthy and are considered heart healthy.

The omega-3s may help heart health 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 ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

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:

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

Selenium

Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much attention in health related articles. I’m unsure why many people don’t write about it more. Many studies9 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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

Potassium

Most mackerel provides 200 to 500 mg per four ounces. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower ((American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure)).

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure10.

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 water11.

Calcium

Calcium which both mackerel provides 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 vessels12.

Calcium also helps the following:

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

Phosphorus

The phosphorus provided by mackerel has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

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

Magnesium

The magnesium provided by mackerel helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure13.

Magnesium helps control the following:

  • Muscle
  • Nerve function
  • Blood sugar
  • Blood pressure
  • Insomnia

It’s able to accomplish this because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.

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 ((National Institutes of Health: Magnesium)).

Read how Pacific Chub compared to Atlantic mackerel:

Atlantic Mackerel vs Pacific Chub Mackerel: The Differences

  1. NOAA Fisheries: Pacific Mackerel []
  2. California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment: Pacific Chub Mackerel []
  3. Sea Grant California: Jack Mackerel []
  4. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  5. Nutrition Value: Fish, drained solids, canned, jack, mackerel []
  6. USDA: Fish, mackerel, Pacific and jack, mixed species, raw []
  7. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake []
  9. National Institutes of Health: Selenium []
  10. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure []
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach []
  12. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []
  13. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis []

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