Growing up, I got fascinated in stories of huge Boston mackerel catches (by number) just off the Jersey coast in May, but my impression was of smallish, not very gaming fighters. So when I encountered my first Spanish mackerel on Kitty Hawk Pier, Outer Banks, North Carolina, I felt doubly stunned: the fish hit me awestruck by the beauty of the blue side and golden spots, and I felt no doubt by the shape that it was fighter. They are.
King mackerel, like that photographed above, are fished off the ends of Outer Banks piers, for just our familiar example. A spider anchor is cast with a stout surf rod--a 12 rod is a good idea, these anchors weigh a lot--and the line from a big game rod and reel gets lowered on the clip line with a small live bluefish hooked with a treble hook/wire rig, a tailor blue of about 12 inches. Other fish like pompano serve when blues aren't around, caught from the pier on light tackle, sometimes volunteered by other anglers. It takes all day to get a king, but it does happen, and usually does, although cobia, tarpon, barracuda, and sharks show as alternatives. Kings range from South Florida northward past the Banks: nowadays some of them frequent New Jersey with the warmer climate.
That's a cero mackerel just above that my son caught in Bahia Honda Channel, Florida Keys. These fish more often run in the five-pound range, although the world record, I read, is only 11 pounds. This one about 21 inches, the pelagic tailfin impressive, also the gold, horizontal line and small gold spots. Cero remain mysterious as yet to me, although I've known a few things about them for years and Matt's catch came as a very welcome sight. I don't know what kind of schooling presence they have at Bahia, for example, which is just inside the Atlantic and prime territory for pelagic race runners to streak in and out. We didn't try trolling flash spoons; this one hit a live shrimp on retrieve. Light tackle fun, the fish captivated us both when it came in sight. Captain Ryan O'Neal, who charters at Ocracoke Inlet, told me that cero come on occasion, but no one has spoken of them in New Jersey yet that I know of.