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Cero Dark Thirty

An unprecedented cero mackerel bite has been underway off Key West for the past few weeks. Capt. Ted Lund is shown here with 15- and 10-pound ceros. The one on the left was caught by FS Editor Jeff Weakley; the other, by Bob Bagby, VP of Marketing for Zebco Brands in Tulsa, OK. Both fish took live pilchards along the Atlantic-side reef line, a few miles east of the Key West shipping channel. Ceros are excellent eating. The flesh is whiter and firmer than king or Spanish mackerel; it's closer, in fact, to wahoo. The 15-pounder was caught on one of the new Quantum Smoke Inshore 100-series baitcast reels. The other was landed on a Smoke PTs Inshore 40-series spinning reel. Ceros typically show up off Key West in November and remain through April. The fish also range northward through Miami and are common in the Bahamas. Coral reefs and aggregations of ballyhoo seem to be primary attractions. Both of these large fish were females laden with orange roe, indicating an upcoming spawning period. The IGFA All-Tackle record is 17.2 pounds.

In addition to the hot cero bite, there have been blackfin tunas up and down the Keys reefline. A windy day offshore kept John Wary on the reef fishing, where he caught this blackfin tuna. Wary was fishing with Vic Weiger on Palm Getaway out of Islamorada, FL, and using a light spinning rod with 15-pound-test monofilament in 120 feet of water.

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