What is Inshore Fishing?
“Inshore fishing is popular all throughout the United States.” -Boatsetter Expert
Just what is inshore fishing? Truth be told, it’s different for different anglers. Not only is inshore fishing in an area like Seattle completely unlike inshore fishing in Florida, but it also differs from person to person because different people enjoy fishing in different ways and for different inshore species.
But we’ve laid out general parameters that define inshore fishing:
- Inshore fishing usually takes place in an enclosed bay or waterway but may also be close to shore in the ocean.
- The term generally refers to salt or brackish water fishing.
- Inshore fishing is usually done from a boat.
Beyond these basics, the variations in inshore fishing are virtually countless. Tactics ranging from trolling to jigging to live baiting and anything in-between may be employed. Conventional, spinning, or fly gear may be used.
While in one corner of the world, the species being pursued might be salmon, while in another, it could be speckled sea trout. Let’s dive in:
Inshore Fishing Waterways
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to define inshore fishing is that the term “inshore” is relative. Most people would agree that when you go fishing on a coastal bay or stay inside of an inlet, you’re inshore.
But, anglers who regularly venture 50 or 60 miles into the ocean often consider themselves fishing inshore even when they go 10 or 15 miles out into the ocean because they don’t consider it “offshore” until they hit the edge of the Continental Shelf.
Then we have to account for terms like “bay fishing” and “flats fishing.” These styles of fishing take place in what most of us would define as inshore waters. So they count as inshore fishing, too, even though different anglers might phrase it differently when describing what sort of fishing they’re doing.
Saltwater & Brackish Water Inshore Fishing
With the exception of the Great Lakes, America’s coastlines are saltwater or brackish water fisheries. Anglers living along the shores of the Great Lakes may still refer to fishing areas as being inshore versus offshore, but between the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific states, there are a whole lot more inshore anglers fishing in water with some degree of saltiness.
By default, inshore fishing is usually considered fishing in salt or brackish waters. Most of the fish we think of as inshore gamefish are saltwater species.
In the northern Atlantic states, striped bass and fluke would be popular inshore species to pursue. In southern Atlantic and Gulf states, fish like speckled sea trout, red drum, and snook take top honors. And on the west coast, the list of prime inshore targets would include species like calico bass, halibut, and sheepshead.
Boats for Inshore Fishing
While one could technically claim to be inshore fishing while standing on a pier, most anglers think of this as fishing from a boat. And inshore fishing is so popular that several boat designs have been created specifically for it.
We have flats skiffs for targeting reds and bonefish on the flats, bay boats designed to fish shoal water but still have enough heft to handle open bays, and hybrid bay boats which are a bit beefier still and can go out into the ocean when the seas allow.
Center consoles are best for inshore fishing in fair weather. Pilothouse and walkaround boats offer protection from the cold and spray. While each of these different boat types is quite different from the others, they’re all great inshore fishing boats.
Want tips from a pro?
Many anglers who don’t own a boat (or aren’t very experienced at inshore fishing) hire a fishing charter. Those charters are typically equipped with fishing gear as well as a guide that’ll show you the local waterways and best tactics.
So, are you ready to go inshore fishing? No matter what sort of inshore fishing you’re about to try, you’re in for a great time.
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With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.