Inshore fishing is incredibly fun, and going on a charter is a sure way to learn the basics. For someone looking on from the sidelines, fishing might appear to be a daunting hobby. With so many possibilities, it can seem intimidating for a complete beginner to find their way around.
The goal of this guide to inshore fishing is to walk you through one of the most accessible ways to start your angling adventure.
What is inshore fishing?
As a general rule of thumb, saltwater inshore fishing is defined as fishing in water that is less than 30 meters or roughly 100 feet deep. Most of your inshore fishing will take place in shallow water, and close to the shore. Although we need this distinction because, at different depths, you will catch different types of fish.
Inshore saltwater fishing trips are a fun and educational way for everyone in the family to spend time together outdoors. Protected bays and estuaries generally offer calmer waters with plenty of opportunities to catch a variety of saltwater species such as spotted seatrout, crevalle jack, flounder, redfish, sheepshead, and Spanish mackerel. It can be such an exciting experience because you never know what might be tugging at the end of your line while fishing in just a few feet of water.
6 Types of Inshore Fish Species
While inshore fish species aren’t as big or flashy as the coveted Marlin or the Tunas of the deep blue, there’s a lot of variety here that keeps anglers coming back for more day in and day out. From hard fighters keeping you on your toes to delicious bottom fish, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Here are some of our top picks for inshore fishing:
Redfish have a recognizable black dot on their tail, which can often be seen above the surface as the fish feeds on the bottom of shallow waters. These fish tend to feed off the bottom, searching for crabs and shrimp, but they also pursue baitfish. This diversity in their diet makes them highly susceptible to both live bait and a wide range of artificial lures.
This fish is athletic and strong, yet they remain a discerning inshore fish species that requires patience and practice to catch. With a sleek black line running down their side, they are also one of the most visually distinct fish you can catch. They are wary, but they like to hang near natural and man-made structure, so finding them is fairly simple. Catching them, however, requires patient live-baiting, trolling, or casting.
Tarpon are quite possibly the strongest and most-exciting inshore fish species. These massive, ancient fish are aggressive and powerful. While hooking one is relatively easy, actually reeling it in can be a challenge. This is largely due to the species’ leaps, which are incredibly acrobatic for a fish of this size.
Requiring subtlety and stealth, the bonefish is a wary species that can easily be startled away. To catch one of these elusive animals, you need the patience and quiet approach of a hunter. Anglers pursuing these fish often use fly rods. To get into the right location many wade or use poles to move the boat quietly.
5. Striped Bass
Also known as stripers and rockfish, striped bass are common in the New England coasts but can also be caught further south, all the way around Florida and into the waters off Louisiana. Stripers are aggressive, hard-fighting fish that respond to a wide range of artificial lures, including spoons, topwater poppers, swim baits, and even flies.
Hunting with short burst of incredible speed, the sharp-toothed barracuda is an absolute thrill. They tend to strike at fast-moving artificial lures, and while they are thin and long, they can reach sizes of 80 pounds or more. When the bite is on, barracuda allow you to catch one of the best predators in the water, as well as a top inshore fishing species.
One of the advantages of inshore fishing is that you can reach the fishing grounds from the shore as well! There are several different ways to do it too, like wading in grassy flats, fishing from piers and bridges, or simply casting from the beach. The best one for you really depends on where you’ll be fishing, so make sure to do your homework ahead of time.
Here is 10 tips of Inshore Fishing for Beginners.
1. Keep It Legal
Make sure that you have a valid saltwater fishing license for your state. The first step to any kind of fishing is to get a license. You can buy or renew your saltwater fishing license either online or by phone, which makes the process super easy and convenient.
2. Check A Local Tide Chart
Check a local tide chart when planning your inshore saltwater fishing trip. One of the most important inshore fishing tips is to plan your trips based on tidal movement. Mangroves and oyster bars can be good spots to fish on an incoming tide, whereas channels and passes can be productive spots as the tide goes out. To make it simple, remember that the baitfish will generally follow the tide, and the game fish will follow the baitfish.
3. Bring Along Your Polarized Sunglasses
Polarized sunglasses will not only protect your eyes from the sun, but will help you spot fish beneath the surface. These types of sunglasses are made using a special lens technology that cuts through the glare on the surface of the water.
4. Inshore Fishing Rods
Of course, if you want to go fishing, you are going to need a rod. There are plenty of inshore fishing rods on the market and many of them can cost you hundreds of dollars, but a basic rod will do the trick just fine.
I recommend a 6–7′ medium heavy rod. This is going to be the most versatile rod that you can have as a beginner. A light rod would work great if you plan to stay close to shore and catch smaller fish, but as you get farther out and start catching fish over 10 lbs, you will appreciate a medium-light rod.
5. Inshore Fishing Reels
The next most important part is going to be your reel. As for the type of reel, I suggest a spinning reel. Just like the rods, there are about a thousand to choose from and they can get super expensive. Again, as a beginner, I do not think you need to break the bank on a reel. Gomexus Reel EX300 is a good choice. For inshore fishing, a 4000 size reel will be the most versatile. It is small enough to allow you to catch smaller fish like trout or redfish, without being overpowering. It also has enough drag and line capacity to handle some bigger redfish and snook.
6. The Right Line
As for the line, you want to have something that is going to stay sturdy while pulling in big fish but is not too big for the little guys. 20 lbs test braid fits this bill perfectly. Now your reel will tell you what the manufacturer recommends as far as the test goes, but I would definitely go with a braid over monofilament.
7. Use Live or Natural Baits
Natural baits, such as shrimp or baitfish, offer you the best opportunity for consistent action. Natural baits can easily be rigged on a circle hook underneath a popping cork. As a general guideline, you should match your hook size to the size of the bait that you plan to use.
Treat your live bait right. Make sure you keep your live bait in a covered bait bucket or in a livewell out of any direct sunlight. If you don't have a livewell with an aerator pump, invest in a bait bucket aerator that will maintain sufficient oxygen levels and keep your baits lively.
When it comes to live bait, live shrimp are king. They work super well and you can catch just about anything on them. What I like to do is use 2/0 or 3/0 circle hooks, this is the perfect size to not weigh your shrimp down too much so he can still move around, and these hooks are still big enough to catch bigger fish.
8. Consider fishing from a public pier to start
Public piers are great places to gain experience with inshore saltwater fishing gear, rigging baits, and landing fish. This is particularly the case when on fishing outings as a family because kids can easily take breaks when needed.
Or You can go into your local bait shops and talk to the guys in there, but they are not going to give you their best spots. They may help guide you in the right direction or give you an area to try. Just let them know that you are new and are trying to find a place to start fishing and want to know what their suggestion is.
You can also take to the internet to find a good place to fish. Facebook groups could be one place to look.
9. Keep your eyes on the water
Look for baitfish jumping on the surface or any change in water color that might indicate a depth change or drop-off. These are two signs that game fish are likely to be nearby. If you have the kids along, ask them to help you look for signs of baitfish or fish habitat -- it's a great way to keep kids engaged in between bites.
10. Catch and Release the Right Way
Pinch the barb on your hook flat so it’s easily removed. You should also start by using the right hook. Circle hooks are the ideal choice for catch and release fishing.
Bring the fish to the boat as quickly as possible to avoid extreme exhaustion. Don’t use ultra-light gear for catch and release.
If you plan to keep a fish or two for the table, let the hook-up decide what you kill. If a trophy size fish is hooked in the lip for an easy release – let it go. If you catch a smaller fish that is bleeding – keep it.
If you want to have a plain good time with friends and family, inshore fishing is a perfect way. The goal of this guide to inshore fishing is to walk you through one of the most accessible ways to start your angling adventure. Hope you will eventually find a few good spots to reliably catch your favorite kind of fish.