Everybody who loves fishing will tell you how different it is to go freshwater or saltwater fishing. But, the different experiences don’t stop here. Saltwater fishing is also divided into two primary segments, inshore and offshore fishing. So, what are the differences between inshore and offshore fishing, and what do the terms mean?
The biggest difference between inshore and offshore fishing is the distance from the shore. Inshore fishing is considered to be as far as ten miles from the shore. Anything beyond that is offshore fishing. Water depth and fish species are also crucial differences.
Be that as it may, anglers worldwide tend to disagree on the definitions between inshore and offshore fishing. Some say that anything over 50 meters from the shore is already offshore fishing. Some claim that the depth of the sea determines if it’s inshore or offshore, not the distance from the coast.
To break all the obscurities, we’ll break down exactly what inshore and offshore fishing is, what species you can catch, and finally, what the most important differences between the two are.
Inshore fishing is considered to be any type of fishing within ten miles away from the shore. While some anglers disagree on the distance, this is a golden-middle norm determining whether you’re inshore or offshore fishing.
More things characterize inshore fishing than merely the distance from the shore. That’s why anglers tend to disagree on the definition so much – every area varies because it’s also about the species you can catch, the depth of the sea where you’re fishing, and more.
When considering all the theories, it seems that the depth of the sea is what determines what inshore or offshore fishing is the most. You can’t do inshore fishing in waters over 30-40 meters deep. Anything beyond that depth is offshore fishing.
Therefore, some areas and seasides have a very shallow coastline, and you don’t get any deeper from 30 meters for miles and miles away from the shore. On the other hand, some areas go very deep very quickly, and you can reach 50 meters of depth or more within the first mile or two from the coast.
What makes inshore fishing so popular and exciting is all the options you have when going on an inshore fishing trip. The most popular game fish tend to stay close to the shore because that’s where all the food is at. You can challenge yourself every day, trying out new setups, new bait, lures, and trying to catch a species you’ve never caught before.
Also, every area brings you new challenges and new species to hunt for. Fishing right from the coast, from a pier, or a boat gives you a different experience. Likewise, fishing on a sandy or rocky coast also carries its respective challenges. It’s a new thing every time, no matter how many times you’ve done it before.
If you’re doing it from a boat, though, make sure to choose a light, smaller boat to be able to navigate the shallows but big enough to maintain stability and have enough storage space.
Inshore fishing is incredibly fun and challenging, especially when you know what species to target, where to target them, and how to have the most success.
What Can You Catch Inshore Fishing?
When inshore fishing, you can catch any fish that’s available around your area. The technology and rod setup you use will heavily determine what you’ll catch, but the options are quite limitless. You’ll learn with experience and see what works and what doesn’t.
As we’ve said, you catch what’s available. Most inshore anglers love to go for redfish. It’s a very common species that can get quite big, so going for personal records is great every time. It also puts up a nice fight, so catching one feels like a challenge every time, even after you’ve pulled dozens out of the water already.
Other popular game fish species are striped bass, flounder, and snook, as they are quite common and widespread. In the areas inhabited by salmon, black drum, and speckled trout, it’s not rare to see inshore anglers going for them hard.
But, the real challenge even for experienced inshore anglers is tarpon and bonefish. Both aren’t considered to be table-friendly, but catching them is a real challenge. Tarpon is super acrobatic and will fly out the water dozens of times before it finally gives in, and you catch it cleanly.
On the other hand, bonefish is one of the most interesting species to catch, as they are quite possibly the most elusive out of all the coastal species available.
You have to be a true stealth hunter and sneak up on them if you want to catch them on a rod. And, even if you get it on a hook, it’ll give you a very hard time pulling it out, even if it’s not the biggest fish of all.
Whatever species are common around your shores, you’ll be able to catch them with a proper rod & tackle setup. Ask experienced anglers in the area if there are any hotspots, and finally, enjoy the exploration process yourself!
Careful With Tarpon And Bonefish
We have to highlight that both tarpon and bonefish should be only viewed as catch-and-release species. While they are edible, rarely do people eat them, and there are good reasons why that’s the case.
Both are loaded with small bones (hence, the name bonefish), making them quite a hassle to eat. Even if you manage to clean the tarpon from all the tiny, sharp bones, it’s not a tasty fish at all, so it’s only a catch-and-release fish in most angler’s minds.
It gets even more serious with bonefish. Some folks have a tradition of eating it, but we would encourage them to stop doing it too, and for several reasons. First, it’s not that tasty. Second, it can be extremely poisonous if not prepared properly.
Third, the economic value is colossal. For instance, millions of anglers come to Florida to try and catch bonefish. It’s a huge industry that contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars and opens hundreds of job slots each year. To hunt them out and not release them back into the sea would mean destroying their population and harming thousands of people’s lives.
Tips & Tricks For Successful Inshore Fishing
It seems like every day, a new way of catching fish is invented. New baits, new reels, new techniques; it’s almost impossible to master every single method and technique, so you should stick to your guns and explore only those options that are suitable for your fishing environment.
But, even then (especially if you’re a beginner), you might have some trouble being successful inshore fishing. We’ll share some basic tips and tricks to help you kick things off in the right direction and be a more successful inshore angler.
Don’t give up right away
Inshore fishing is tricky because there are many possible gear combinations, and not everything will work everywhere. However, you shouldn’t give up right away if you don’t get a bit instantly. Try out different tackle, change the depth, play around with lures, change spots.
Everything you do can prove beneficial, even if it leads to more failure. At least you can tick the boxes and find out what works and what doesn’t. Perhaps you’ll end up with a setup and catch fish you didn’t aim for.
But, it can be useful to know that it works for a particular species. Note it, and move on to a new setup until you find the one that works out the best for what you wanted.
Nobody became an expert angler overnight, be it inshore or offshore. It takes experience and a lot of trial and error. Don’t get discouraged, but enjoy what you’re doing, and make it a learning experience every time you cast the line.
Aim for underwater structures when inshore fishing
Rarely will fish stay in plain sight for too long. They almost always seek shelter wherever they can. That’s where you should aim when inshore fishing – weeds, rock formations, shipwrecks, coral reefs – any underwater structure you can find is a good spot to cast your line.
As you progress, you’ll begin to learn where you can find particular species. For instance, tarpons tend to prefer short grass and open spaces more, as they can use their strength, speed, and agility to catch prey more easily. On the other hand, bonefish will hide in deeper grass or rock formations.
A great way to find new spots is to cruise around in a boat on a day when the sea is calm and clear. You’ll be able to see a lot deeper and discover spots you never knew were there. If you don’t own a boat, aim for piers and similar spots that might provide shelter for fish.
What we’d like to share with you is something that more and more anglers are realizing, and that’s the use of technology we all have – for free. Online maps are a fantastic way to find new fishing hotspots around your area.
You can see underwater structures from satellite images on Google Earth. When you start finding spots like this and visiting them in real life, you’ll better understand what a particular formation looks like on the online maps. That way, you’ll know how to distinguish deep and shallow grass, large and small potholes, inlets, reefs, sand walls, etc.
Play the tides
Fish aren’t active all the time, so it’s important to know what time of the day you’ll get the most bites. The easiest way to recognize how, when, and where to go inshore fishing is playing the tides and knowing how the fish react to tidal changes.
From our experience, fish are the most active right before dawn, and just before sunset. The reason behind that is that the tidal flow is the largest around those times of the day. As the tides rise, the fish will come closer to the shore to feed.
Once the tide drops, though, the fish will go further away from the shore into deeper water. They’ll still be active, though, but you’ll have more success from a boat in these circumstances.
We found that leading a journal is the most useful thing you can do when it comes to gathering information and playing the tides the right way. Each time you go fishing, write down the location where you were, the exact time of the tide, how high the tides were, and how active the fish were.
Having those pieces of information will help you learn from experience and be more and more successful each time.
Choose a proper boat
If you don’t own a boat and don’t plan on fishing from one, disregard this tip. However, if you have a boat or plan on getting one, you should know what to look for. Inshore fishing means you’ll spend a lot of time in shallow waters. Therefore, you’ll need a lightweight, small, and agile boat to maneuver around the shallows more easily.
Having a cabin is awesome, but it’s more important to have more storage space for your equipment, bait, and catch. After all, that’s what you’re fishing for, right?
You should also be careful about what kind of an engine does your both have. Loud engines are a perfect recipe to scare fish away. If you have such an engine, turn it off and paddle to a spot where you want to cast if you want the fish to remain there.
Offshore fishing is a whole different experience from inshore fishing. However, defining what it is is hard, as the definitions vary depending on who you ask.
The most common understanding is that offshore fishing is fishing done in waters thirty or more meters deep. Others will say that it’s fishing at least 15 miles away from the coast regardless of the depth.
The point is, offshore fishing means that you’re entering the open sea, which means you’ll need to learn different techniques and use different setups than you would when fishing on the coast or near it. Also, the types of fish living in the open sea are quite bigger, so the bait you use needs to be bigger as well.
You might wonder what you’ll need if you plan to go on an offshore fishing excursion. Well, the answer is different, depending on how you’re going.
If you go offshore with a charter, the only thing you need to bring is yourself, as they’ll provide you with the needed equipment and find spots to fish. It’s a much more family-friendly option, but we think it takes away from the experience.
If you have your boat, then you might need to gear up thoroughly. First of all, use a bigger, more stable boat. A golden rule, some anglers say, is to go on a boat that’s more than 22 feet long.
They have a bigger fuel tank, much better stability, and can carry a lot more weight, which you’ll need. Of course, bring all the necessary fishing equipment with you, including lures or live bait (you can try catching some yourself, too).
Next, you’ll need GPS and radio communication, especially when going so far away from the coast. It might be smart to have a sonar, too, as there aren’t many signs you can follow to determine where the fish are.
Offshore fishing usually brings you a lot less fish, and it might be hours before you actually strike. But, the fish living in deep waters are big, and the species are different, which makes it all the more exciting. Every time you go out there, there’s a chance you’ll get a new personal best or catch a new species.
As for the techniques, nobody can really master all of them, as they vary intensively, and new methods pop up all the time. However, the technique you use will heavily determine what you catch, so it’s not a bad idea to try and explore a bit. Trolling, bottom-fishing, vertical jigging, and deep dropping are the most common techniques, but not the only ones.
Finally, the most important thing to check before departure is to check the weather forecast. If there’s a storm coming in, postpone your trip. Deeper water means that the sea can get extremely unsettled, and bad weather conditions can be quite dangerous. Not only that, but you won’t be able to catch anything, so don’t waste time going at all. Safety first!
What Can You Catch Offshore Fishing?
As we mentioned, it’s a lot harder to score a bit when offshore fishing, but all the giants live offshore. One of the most common targets is tuna or wahoo. The reason behind that is you can find them almost anywhere, and it’s so much fun catching them. However, the time of the day and the seasons will determine when they are available.
Many fish aren’t there the entire year, so you might have to settle for another species. Another popular choice is the white and black snapper. Mahi also attracts a huge number of anglers in areas where they are available. Their unusual appearance and feisty spirit make them a very exciting experience.
You might also find king mackerel, cobia, sailfish, kingfish, and more, depending on the technique you’re using. Fish tend to have predetermined feeding habits, and live around the same depth. Therefore, the species will change depending on how deep you cast.
Tuna can sometimes be found at depths even shallower than 300 feet. Blueline tilefish inhabits the area between 300 and 400 feet, while golden tilefish usually dwells at around 600 to 900 feet deep. What we are trying to say is – poke around. Try different spots, setups, depths, techniques and methods, and baits.
Some fish, such as mahi mahi, prefer live bait such as squid. You can even chop it up in pieces, they won’t mind. On the other hand, some species will skip the chopped parts, but you can still use them by throwing them in the water and attracting fish. Then, put a whole squid on the line as bait to entice them to attack. It works every time, if there are any fish around at all.
Tips For Successful Offshore Fishing
There are no rules when going offshore fishing that can guarantee you will catch a certain species you wanted. Heck, there are no guarantees you’ll catch anything at all. That’s why you should know what you’re doing before venturing out there and casting.
We’ll give you some nice tips that might help you be more successful, and we’ll assume you’re going on your boat, not a charter excursion, as there’s a big difference between the two.
Get a license to fish offshore
If you rent a charter with a captain and a mate, you don’t need a license to go offshore fishing, as the captain will provide it within the price. They also provide gear, tackle, and everything else you might need. However, when going yourself, you need to have your own license for fishing offshore.
You can get one at your local fishing regulation bodies, but make sure you’re getting the right license. In most cases, you need special permission to go offshore fishing, and your inshore license might not be enough.
If you plan on taking your entire family, they don’t all need a license; only you having one is enough.
Follow weather and tidal forecasts
Bad weather means no catch and possibly a safety hazard. Big tidal changes mean troubled seas, yet again a safety hazard that makes fishing almost impossible. You should have this information before leaving, as returning home after an hour or two on the water will not get you your money’s worth.
Don’t complicate it
If you’re a beginner at offshore fishing, don’t get too fancy. Yeah, we’ve all seen the shows where anglers have multiple rods cast simultaneously, each with a different setup, etc. Don’t do that if you’re not an experienced offshore angler. You’ll just end up tangled and overwhelmed, making the entire experience stressful instead of fun.
Learn about the fish you’re trying to catch
Don’t go out on a limb and believe you’ll magically catch fish after fish. If you want to have any chance of catching something, learn more about the available species around your area. Get experienced anglers to share where the fish are going, what paths they use, how deep they swim, what tackle they bite.
You might get all those pieces of information yourself through trial and error, but hey, it’s smarter to learn from somebody else’s mistakes than yours, right?
8 Differences Between Inshore And Offshore Fishing
Now we know that characterizes both inshore and offshore fishing, so it’s obvious there are many differences between them. We’ll point out the most crucial differences you need to know about. Knowing your goals and what type of fishing offers will determine what kind of fishing is more suitable for you.
1. The distance from shore/depth of the sea
Let’s start with the obvious. The biggest difference between inshore and offshore fishing is the distance you need to travel from the coast. Inshore fishing is within 10-15 miles from the coast (depending on where you’re fishing) and up to 30 meters of depth.
Offshore fishing is everything above that – over 15 miles from the shore and over 30 meters of sea depth. That means you’ll need a bigger boat. Inshore fishing can also be done from the coast, a pier, or a smaller boat to cruise around, finding the perfect spot to cast.
2. The species you can catch
When fishing inshore, you’ll find plenty more fish, but they’ll be smaller species than you would find offshore. Species like tarpon, bonefish, sea bass, flounder, redfish, and trout are common inshore targets, while tuna, marlins, mackerel, wahoo, and mahi are frequent for offshore anglers.
3. The equipment
Bigger fish means heavier equipment, so you’ll need to have much stronger stuff for offshore fishing. The boat has to be bigger, and the tackle varies from the one you’d use inshore. The main reason behind it is that the species don’t feed the same way, so you need to be careful about what you’re using as bait.
Also, the importance of electronic equipment is much higher when going offshore fishing. You’ll need GPS to find your way around, a radio, a sonar, etc. It’s nice to have those things when inshore fishing, but they aren’t as necessary.
4. The cost
When traveling further away to fish, you need a bigger boat. That means more maintenance and more fuel. Also, you’ll need more supplies, as offshore trips last a lot longer than inshore trips.
5. The duration
Offshore trips are longer because it’s not worth it to go as far as 20-30 miles away from the coast and stay there for an hour or two. Excursions usually last between 8-12 hours, but it’s not rare to have crews spend a couple of days at sea without returning to the shore.
6. The tackle
When fishing inshore, you’ll use light tackle, smaller bait, and lures. Also, you’ll use things that the inshore fish can regularly find and eat. A squid, for instance, might not be good bait for inshore fish, but it will be incredible when going offshore.
7. The catch rate/fish size
You will certainly catch more fish inshore, but they will be a lot smaller. Offshore fish may take hours to bite, but this is the way to go if you want size over quantity.
8. The influence of seasons/weather
The influence of seasons and weather is a lot higher when offshore fishing.