Game Fishing > Mackerel Family, Scombridae > Cero

Cero


CeroThe cero, or sierra, was described by Bloch, in 1795, from a drawing of a specimen from the West Indies, by Plumier. He named it regalis, meaning "royal" or "regal." It belongs to the West Indian fauna of fishes, and is common from Florida to Brazil. Occasionally it strays in the summer as far north as Massachusetts.

It is closely allied to the Spanish mackerel, and resembles it in form, but differs very much in coloration and size, being more sombre and much larger. Its color is brownish on the back, with silvery sides and belly; it is marked with two dusky longitudinal stripes, and several rows of dark spots, not bronze or golden as in the Spanish mackerel.

I have met with the cero only along the Florida reefs and keys. It does not swim in such large schools as the Spanish mackerel, and does not accompany it in its wanderings into the bays or along the shores, but seeks the same localities, and is of similar habits, as the kingfish-mackerel. It feeds entirely on fishes. Its breeding habits have not been studied, though they are doubtless not unlike those of the Spanish mackerel, except as to the locality and season of depositing its eggs. Its usual weight is five or six pounds, though it sometimes grows to five feet in length and twenty pounds or more in weight.

I have taken it with bone and block-tin squids, trolling from a yacht, and also from an anchored boat with rod and line, by casting mullet or sardines for bait. A striped-bass rod and tackle are suitable, as it is a strong and powerful fish, making extraordinary leaps when hooked. For its weight I know of no gamer fish, but my experience in rod-fishing has been somewhat limited, being confined to the capture of half a dozen fish.

I was once yachting along the Florida keys, and while anchored near Bahia Honda I put off in the dinghy to cast mullet bait for cero and kingfish (Scomberomorus cavalla). The latter is a near relative of the cero, and they resemble each other so closely that it is often difficult to distinguish between them. The king­fish is rather more slender, the adult fish being of a uniform slaty hue, usually without spots or markings of any kind, and grows to a larger size, often to fifty pounds or more.

On the occasion referred to I captured a number of kingfish and two ceros of about the same relative weight, from eight to ten pounds. The conditions were quite favorable to compare their gameness, but I was unable to perceive any difference in this respect. Both fish took the bait with a rush, and when hooked exhibited game qualities of the highest order, leaping continuously and to a height of five or six feet. Their swift rushes, as they cut through the water with incredible swiftness, and for which they are especially built, were very trying to my light striped-bass rod. I lost a number of fish that shook out the hook when leaping.

The cero and the kingfish are favorite food-fishes in Key West, where large quantities are consumed. Both the cero and kingfish are excellent food-fishes, with a flavor much like that of the Spanish mackerel, but more pronounced, that is, not so delicate and delicious, but more pungent.