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Scad or Horse Mackerel

The Scad are usually linked closely to the Mackerel even though they are not related,

The Scad are commonly known as Horse Mackerel they have very large eyes and a silver body and can be caught very close to the shoreline using a float rig baited with strips of fish etc or they can also be captured on feathers not unlike Mackerel.

  • Feeds on: Mostly feeds by hunting small fish, sandeels and squid, although will take most edible creatures it comes across including crustaceans. Scad can also filter feed on plankton.
  • Description: Streamlined silvery body, with green/grey back. Two dorsal fins, first of which is tall and spined, the second is longer and flatter, as is the anal fin. Tail is deeply forked. Unusual scaly lateral line which runs all the way from the tail to the gills and curves upwards over the large pectoral fin. Large eyes and black mark on gill cover.

Scad is a shoaling species which is found all around the UK. They are not actually related to mackerel despite their alternative name of horse mackerel (there are a number of species around the world also named or nicknamed horse mackerel). The alternative name comes from the untrue belief that other small species of fish would ride on the back of scad as they swam through the sea.


Commercially caught scad.


Scad can be found at all water levels. They will hunt at or near the surface for small fish and will also hunt around the seabed for anything they can find there. At certain times it is thought that crustaceans can make up a large proportion of their diet. Smaller scad can filter feed on plankton, but some reports state that scad retain this ability throughout their life.

Scad inhabit fairly deep water for most of the year, come into shallower water, and within the range of shore anglers, in the warm summer months. They are known to feed more when the sun begins to set, spending daylight hours nearer the seabed. The vast majority of scad caught by UK sea anglers are caught on feathers, daylights or other lures.

Although scad can reach eighteen inches in length and the UK shore caught record is three pounds they are usually much smaller than this coming in at ten inches or so and under a pound.


Scad is a commercial fish which can be fried or baked, it is also used in frozen food products.

Most of the scad caught in UK waters is exported abroad to continental Europe where scad is much more popular as a food fish. Although little research has been carried out into the stocks of scad fishing for this species is thought to be taking place within safe biological limits and the stocks are thought to be stable. Scad is vastly important around Africa as it it forms part of the staple diet for millions of people.


Some anglers have had success using scad as a bait, with thin strips being used to float fish for mackerel and garfish and it is also useful as a livebait for big bass, tope or conger eel.

Photo Information for Scad or Horse Mackerel

Taken with SAMSUNG GT-S5620

  • 3.6 mm
  • 1/1219
  • f f/2.8
  • ISO 250
View all photo EXIF information

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