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Mackerel vs. Wahoo — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 29, 2024
Mackerel are smaller, schooling fish known for their oily flesh, while Wahoo are solitary, fast swimmers with lean, white meat.
Mackerel vs. Wahoo — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Mackerel and Wahoo


Key Differences

Mackerel is a common name for several species of pelagic fish that are known for their distinct vertical stripes on their backs and oily flesh. Wahoo, on the other hand, is a large, solitary species found in tropical and subtropical seas worldwide.
The habitats of mackerel and Wahoo differ significantly. Mackerel are commonly found in both coastal and offshore waters, often in temperate and cold regions, whereas Wahoo prefer warmer offshore waters. This difference in habitat reflects their adaptations to different environmental conditions and available prey.
In terms of fishing and culinary uses, mackerel and Wahoo cater to different tastes and preferences. Mackerel, with its strong, distinctive taste, appeals to those who enjoy flavorful fish, while Wahoo, with its mild taste and firm texture, suits a different palate, often being preferred for high-end culinary preparations.
The size and behavior of these fish also differ markedly. Mackerel, being smaller and schooling fish, are often caught in larger numbers, which affects their availability and price. Wahoo, being larger and solitary, are typically targeted by sport fishermen, and their catch is more sporadic, often making them a more premium product in markets and restaurants.

Comparison Chart


Smaller, usually up to 2 feet in length.
Larger, can reach lengths of up to 8 feet.

Meat Type

Oily flesh, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Lean, white, firm meat.


Strong, distinctive taste.
Mild, delicate flavor.


Coastal and offshore, temperate to cold.
Offshore, tropical and subtropical.

Fishing Method

Often caught in schools, commercial fishing.
Targeted by sport fishermen, solitary.

Culinary Uses

Grilling, smoking.
Raw preparations, lightly cooked dishes.

Compare with Definitions


Known for strong flavor and high nutritional value.
Mackerel is often recommended for its omega-3 content.


A large, fast-swimming pelagic fish.
The speed of Wahoo makes it a sought-after trophy for sport fishermen.


Popular in smoked and grilled dishes.
Smoked mackerel is a delicacy in many European countries.


Not typically found in schools, usually solitary.
Catching a Wahoo requires patience and skill due to their solitary nature.


A common name for various species of oily fish.
The Atlantic mackerel is a staple in many coastal cuisines.


Valued for its lean, white meat and delicate flavor.
Wahoo steaks are a favorite in upscale seafood restaurants.


Found in temperate and cold waters, often in schools.
Fishermen target schools of mackerel for commercial catches.


Preferred in sashimi and lightly seared preparations.
Wahoo sashimi is appreciated for its texture and taste.


Varies in size but generally smaller than Wahoo.
Spanish mackerel are prized for their rich taste in Mediterranean cooking.


Found in tropical and subtropical seas worldwide.
Anglers in the Caribbean often catch Wahoo during offshore fishing trips.


Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of pelagic fish, mostly from the family Scombridae. They are found in both temperate and tropical seas, mostly living along the coast or offshore in the oceanic environment.


Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) is a scombrid fish found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. It is best known to sports fishermen, as its speed and high-quality flesh makes it a prized and valued game fish.


Any of various marine fishes of the family Scombridae, especially Scomber scombrus of the North Atlantic Ocean, a predatory food fish having dark wavy bars on the back and a silvery belly.


A deciduous shrub or small tree (Euonymus atropurpureus) of eastern North America, having small purplish flowers, pink fruit containing scarlet arils, and red foliage in the autumn.


Any of various similar fishes, such as the horse mackerels.


See winged elm.


Certain smaller edible fish, principally true mackerel and Spanish mackerel in family Scombridae, often speckled,


A large marine food and game fish (Acanthocybium solandri) of subtropical and tropical waters, having a pointed snout, narrow body, and long dorsal fin.


Typically Scomber scombrus in the British isles.


An exuberant cry
He let out a wahoo. Also called regionally rebel yell.


A true mackerel, any fish of tribe Scombrini (Scomber spp., Rastrelliger spp.)


Used to express exuberance.


Certain other similar small fish in families Carangidae, Gempylidae, and Hexagrammidae.


Acanthocybium solandri, a tropical and subtropical game fish.


(obsolete) A pimp; also, a bawd.


(Southern US) The winged elm, Ulmus alata.


A pimp; also, a bawd.


Euonymus atropurpureus, an eastern burning bush.


Any species of the genus Scomber of the family Scombridae, and of several related genera. They are finely formed and very active oceanic fishes. Most of them are highly prized for food.
Mackerel sky and mare's-tailsMake tall ships carry low sails.


Any of various American trees or shrubs;


Flesh of very important usually small (to 18 in) fatty Atlantic fish


A dark blue scombroid food fish (Acanthocibium solandri or Acanthocibium petus) of Florida and the West Indies.


Any of various fishes of the family Scombridae


Upright deciduous plant with crimson pods and seeds; the eastern United States from New York to Florida and Texas


Deciduous shrub having purple capsules enclosing scarlet seeds


Large fast-moving predacious food and game fish; found worldwide

Common Curiosities

Can you eat Wahoo raw?

Yes, Wahoo is excellent eaten raw and is often used in sashimi and sushi due to its high-quality, lean meat.

Is mackerel considered a sustainable fish?

Sustainability of mackerel depends on the species and where it is caught. Some mackerel fisheries are well-managed and considered sustainable, while others are not.

Where can you typically find Wahoo?

Wahoo are typically found in offshore waters of tropical and subtropical seas, often near drop-offs or reefs.

Why is Wahoo so prized by sport fishermen?

Wahoo's speed, strength, and the challenge of catching a solitary, fast-moving fish make it a prized catch in sport fishing.

What makes mackerel a popular choice in many cuisines?

Its rich flavor, nutritional value, and versatility in cooking make mackerel a popular choice in various cuisines.

What is the best way to cook mackerel?

Mackerel is best when grilled or smoked, methods that complement its rich, oily flesh.

Which is healthier, mackerel or Wahoo?

Both are healthy, but mackerel has higher omega-3 fatty acid content, beneficial for heart health.

How do the tastes of mackerel and Wahoo compare?

Mackerel has a strong, distinctive taste due to its oily flesh, while Wahoo has a milder, more delicate flavor, making it versatile in culinary uses.

Is Wahoo expensive?

Yes, Wahoo can be more expensive than many other fish, due to its premium quality meat and the challenge of catching it.

Are there any conservation concerns for Wahoo?

While Wahoo are not currently listed as endangered, responsible fishing practices are encouraged to ensure their populations remain healthy.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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