Many years ago, my Aunt Vivian asked me to stay for lunch because she was serving mackerel that her son, Ray, had caught that morning.

I was 18 years old and gladly accepted the invitation because I liked eating this delicious fish fresh from the ocean. Right at mid-meal that day, though, I decided “liked” didn’t describe my feelings strongly enough. I loved pigging out on mackerel and have ever since.

For best results, though, wise anglers eviscerate and ice mackerel soon after landing one and store them in a Zip-Lock bag so melted ice-water doesn’t touches the meat. The result is dining perfection.

Two decades after that memorable repast, nutritionists began pushing this oily species as a health food and cited multiple studies.

Atlantic mackerel provide diners with concentrated Omega-3 fatty acids, an excellent antioxidant with polyunsaturated fat good for the heart. Mackerel also contain saturated fat, upwards to 20 percent for a daily 2,000-calorie diet. Omega-3 makes up for bad fat, though.

One medium filet also has 21 grams of protein as well as vitamin D, vitamin B 12, vitamin B 6, iron, phosphorous, niacin, folic acid and more. Such health benefits furnish us with reason enough to go fishing tomorrow to catch the main ingredient for a fish broil.

Mackerel offer a guilt-free meal, too, because this species is so prolific and provides great fun on light tackle. When these fish are running, the action cannot be beat — a great way to introduce children to fishing and eating the catch.

Frying diminishes flavor, but broiling makes them delectable. My favorite recipe begins with medium-dark coals, butterflied mackerel (so each fish lies flat on the grill), salt, pepper and lemon juice to cut the oil a tad. Two fish per person suffices, and broiling begins skin-side up before flipping. Cook 10 minutes per inch of thickness or until meat flakes easily.

When in a gourmet mood, I’ll start with eight butterflied fish for four and melt a stick of butter, two tablespoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of salt and a half-teaspoon of pepper, preferably white.

Cook the fish skin-side up for two to four minutes, flip, quickly baste the broiled side with mustard sauce and continue broiling until flaky.

Most Maine anglers have caught this common fish at one time or another, but not everyone knows the particulars about this pelagic species.

Beginning with this tidbit: Serious salty anglers may know the all-tackle world record weighed 2 pounds 10 ounces, but most anglers do not realize that it came off the Norway coast — a widespread species.

Our mackerel forage on fish eggs and baitfish in the western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Labrador. This species also delights palates in the Baltic Sea, eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Guidebooks disagree on average lengths, showing experts squabble about this common target of myriad world anglers:

In “Sportfish of the Atlantic,” Vic Dunway claimed Atlantic mackerel often run 12 inches but do reach 18 inches. He also said 2-pounders are uncommon.

In “Ken Schultz’s Fishing Encyclopedia,” a writer said Atlantic mackerel average 14 to 18 inches and weigh 1.25 to 1.5 pounds. (As a disclaimer, I contributed to this book but not to the mackerel section.)

Mackerel fishing always reminds me of an incident from the late 1970s.

Stan Foye of Pittston and I were fishing for Atlantic salmon at Reversing Falls on the Sheepscot River, a saltwater pool.

The estuary water proved too warm for salmon, so when a mackerel school showed up, we cast flies to them to break up the monotony.

Talk about the value of matching forage with a fly. My offering was a salmon pattern, a Rusty Rat, but Foye had caught mackerel there the day before and studied the stomach content — a baitfish imitated by a No. 10 Blue and White bucktail with a silver body. Stan was catching five mackerel for each one I landed and soon called it to my attention — as if he needed to.

In those days, matching saltwater forage hadn’t caught on as it has now, but that incident underscored the importance of matching forage at the moment — just as trout anglers imitate insects.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

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