Smaller cousin to the wahoo and king mackerel, Pacific sierra mackerel (Scomberomorus sierra) are a silver missile with a forked tail and mouth lined with razor-sharp teeth. These speedy fish put up a great fight on light tackle, making them a favorite catch in coastal waters from Baja to Panama.

Kayak Fishing for Sierra Mackerel

Perhaps no one has caught more sierra than Pascal Artieda of Panama Kayak Adventure. For nearly a decade, Artieda has run a boutique lodge carved into the coastal jungle west of Cambutal. Artieda says the little speed demon is one of his favorite targets.

“Sierra are a great fighter on light tackle,” he says, citing savage strikes and speedy, unpredictable runs, with occasional eye-popping airborne displays.

To target sierra, Artieda suggests using a fast-sinking stickbait. This lure can be trolled fast but when the mackerel are numerous, it’s hard to beat a long cast and rapid, hard twitching retrieve. Light spinning or even baitcasting gear with 20-pound braided line make sierra mackerel an exciting challenge. Light tackle also avoids putting too much pressure on the fish, which could result in pulling the hook. “Their bony mouth is fragile,” Artieda says.

Sierra tend to snap their toothy jaws first and ask questions later, so a short leader of light wire will keep the lure attached.

Pacific sierra mackerel are a blast on light tackle. | Photo: Will Richardson
Pacific sierra mackerel are a blast on light tackle. | Feature photo: Will Richardson

Sierra Mackerel Fishing Tips

Looks to Kill

Like the cero and Spanish mackerel, Pacific sierra mackerel sport gold markings on the sides. They are the only mackerel in the eastern Pacific to show this pattern.

Where to Find Sierra Mackerel

Sierra typically prowl the upper water column along rocky shores and nearshore coastal waters, making these speedsters an exciting target for kayak anglers. To fuel their high-speed lifestyle, sierra are always on the lookout for small baitfish. Sierra don’t form large schools, but if you catch one then bet there are more fish in the area.

Light Tackle Blitzkrieg

To experience the full speed of a sierra mackerel, target them with light gear. The streamlined, fork-tailed fish take off in screaming runs and make dazzling cuts.

Mackerel Taste Test

Like most mackerels, sierra are best bled out, filleted with the skin on and eaten fresh. The meat is delicate; perfect for grilling or baking. For a lighter taste, steam the rich, oily fillets.

Sierra Mackerel Fishing Hot Spots

Pacific sierra can be caught along the southern coast of California, but the three most popular areas are south of the border. The IGFA All-Tackle Record for Pacific sierra mackerel is 18 pounds, caught in 1990 in Ecuador.


Rancho Leonero |

Costa Rica

Playa Hermosa |

Panama’s Azuero Peninsula

Panama Kayak Adventures |

This article was first published in Kayak Anger Issue 44. Subscribe to Kayak Anger and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos or browse the digital archives for your desktop here.


Pacific sierra mackerel are a blast on light tackle. | Feature photo: Will Richardson



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