What Is Inshore Fishing: The Basics for Beginners

If you’re new to fishing, you might have overheard other anglers talking about inshore and offshore fishing, which they prefer and why, but, being green, you might have been too nervous to ask them, “what is inshore fishing?”

While some anglers have different interpretations, most agree that inshore fishing takes place within 9 miles of the shoreline in water that is 98 ½ feet deep or less. When inshore fishing, you can see the land from where you fish, which is usually while in a vessel on saltwater.

Much like other forms of fishing, inshore has certain defining characteristics. The methods/techniques used, the equipment, particular areas, and the type of fish you target differ from offshore fishing. Below we examine some of the defining characteristics of inshore fishing.

The Fundamentals Of Inshore Fishing

While anglers may differ in their definitions of inshore fishing, particularly in the techniques, water depth, and (exact) distance from the shoreline, we can sum inshore fishing up as “fishing within sight of the land/shore.”

While not an exact figure, within roughly 9 miles (away from the shoreline) and at a depth of up to 98 ½ ft is more or less the inshore fishing zone.

Where Would You Do Inshore Fishing?

Thanks to the “open-ended” definition of “what inshore fishing is,” anglers may not always agree on where it takes place.

Most agree that inshore fishing is usually related to fishing from a boat/vessel in a saltwater environment (the ocean).

However, inshore fishing can also include fishing from a vessel on lakes, creeks, and rivers (freshwater), provided you are within sight of the shore.

Some anglers extend the definition to include fishing from piers and wharves, while others consider surf fishing to be a form of inshore fishing (however, that may be stretching things a bit).

Bays are some of the most popular inshore fishing areas. They are relatively protected from extreme conditions. Wind and tidal action are two factors that ruin many a fishing trip. Thanks to the shape of a bay, it reduces the power of waves through refraction.

Fish also tend to congregate in bays (thanks to the reduced tidal movements and the congregating of food).

Other popular inshore fishing habitats include:

  • Bridges, docks, and jetties
  • Channels
  • Grass flats
  • Mangroves
  • Island passes
  • Reefs

The Best Inshore Fishing Areas In The US

Many of the best inshore fishing spots in the US are along the Gulf and South Eastern coastlines.

Some top-rated places to go inshore fishing in the US include:

  • Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Although various species occur, bluefish and striped bass are the most popular. The hook-shaped peninsula creates an ideal, sheltered bay.
  • Homer, Alaska. The ocean supports huge fish populations thanks to the icy waters of Alaska. Some of the prominent species include halibut and salmon.
  • The Keys, Florida. This chain of islands lies close to the equator, and the Gulf of Mexico, creating ideal conditions, while also receiving some protection from the Atlantic ocean (thanks to the islands). Anglers catch various species, including bonefish, great barracuda, snook, redfish, and tarpon.
  • Venice, Louisiana. Close to the Mississippi Delta, the nutrients coming down the river create a diverse, well-populated fish community. Redfish are the most popular, while tuna, marlin, and yellowfin are also present.

What Equipment And Gear Do You Need For Inshore Fishing?

Your definition of inshore fishing determines the parameters of what you’ll need. However, looking at the most commonly accepted definition:

Inshore Fishing Requires A Vessel

To fish in water up to 9 miles from the land, you’ll need a type of vessel, including boats, kayaks, canoes, and floating platforms.

Most anglers use a small boat or kayak/canoe. There is no limit on the vessel’s size, power, propulsion, etc., provided it allows you to float safely. An anchor of sorts is recommended.

The vessel is usually smaller and lighter as the water conditions are calm, and anglers may fish as shallow as 20 inches. An 18 to 25 ft boat is ideal.

Although the amount of luxuries on the boat relates to personal taste, you’ll need a live baitwell, casting platform, and rod storage for effective fishing.

Inshore Fishing Requires Designated Rods

The rod, reel, line, and lures/bait used for inshore fishing relate to the fish you’re targeting and the technique you decide to use.

As a rule of thumb, inshore fish are between 5 and 100 lbs.;however, most anglers aim for fish up to around 50 lbs. Your rod needs to be strong enough to pull out a larger fish without snapping while sensitive enough to feel subtle “nibbles.”

Most anglers keep at least two setups (one light, the other heavy) depending on what they intend to catch.

When targeting smaller fish (like flounder, pompano, smaller redfish, Spanish mackerel, and trout), anglers opt for smaller rods and reels. Fast action, 6 ½ to 7’ rods that are medium-light to medium power are suitable for these fish. The rod tip should be rated for 6 to 12 lbs.

These longer rods are ideal for setting your hook further away from your vessel so nervous fish are not scared away.

Pair these rods with a spinning reel that holds around 140 to 200 yards of 15 to 20 lbs. line.

A “heavy” setup includes 7 to 7 ½’ rods, with medium to medium-heavy power and fast action (12 to 20 lbs. tip).

A spinning reel that accommodates 200 to 300 yards of 15 to 25 lbs. line is the ideal partner. Most reels between a 2500 to 3500 series are effective for inshore fishing.

Inshore anglers use a range of lures, including:

  • Light jig heads (both setups)
  • Topwater plugs (heavy set up)
  • Spoons (both setups)
  • Soft plastic lures (both setups)

Anglers use live and dead bait (including greenbacks, pinfish, or white fish) on either setup.

Inshore Fishing Techniques

Many anglers employ various techniques while inshore fishing, including:

  • Bowfishing
  • Jigging
  • Fly fishing
  • Spinning
  • Fishing with live bait.
  • Sight casting
  • Trolling

What Fish Species Do You Target When Inshore Fishing?

The most popular species of inshore fish include:

  • Bluefin tuna
  • Cobia
  • Grouper
  • Mackerel
  • Permit
  • Pompano
  • Redfish
  • Sheepshead
  • Snapper
  • Snook
  • Spotted sea trout
  • Tarpon
  • Trout
  • Various sharks
  • Whiting

The area you’re fishing in, the time of year, the tide, the weather, and the time of day are significant in determining what fish species you’ll find on any given day. While targeting one species is okay, if you’re new to the inshore fishing scene, take a variety of baits and target various species.

The Differences Between Inshore And Offshore Fishing

Often, it’s easier to understand what something is when you look at what the alternative is.

If inshore fishing is fishing within sight of the shoreline, offshore fishing is when you’re far enough out on a waterbody (in a vessel) that you cannot see the shoreline. Offshore fishing often occurs 30 to 130 miles (or further) from the shoreline.

Inshore fishing usually has calmer waters than offshore, so you’ll be able to use smaller vessels (including kayaks) unsuited to offshore fishing. Offshore anglers may experience extreme weather conditions (including severe thunderstorms, heavy rains, and massive waves).

Offshore fishing usually requires heavier, stronger tackle designed for monstrous fish and rough water conditions.

Offshore fishing usually targets different fish types. I.e., offshore anglers often target marlin or sailfish. Inshore anglers may target snook, redfish, or tarpon.

Inshore fishing is significantly influenced by tidal action. In some areas, the tide can move up/down by as much as 6 feet. Aside from potentially leaving you stranded, the tidal movement will help/hinder rowing a kayak and influences what fish you may find.

Inshore angling allows you to fish around bridges, in bays, closer to rocks, etc. These “structures” create habitats for different fish species, and act as markers, helping beginners identify ideal fishing spots.

Offshore fishing is also called “deep sea fishing,” so you don’t have the benefit of “landmarks.” you’ll often troll while deep sea fishing to try and catch game fish.

Inshore fishing is usually short (up to a day), whereas offshore fishing may take several days (it takes longer to get there, and many ships have accommodation facilities).


Anglers partake in inshore fishing when they fish within sight of land in water up to roughly 98.5 feet deep. Inshore anglers use lighter tackle (up to 7′ rods) and target fish of up to 100 lbs., but usually much less. Most inshore fishing is from a boat in saltwater.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.