Inshore and offshore fishing offer amazing experiences. Both are types of saltwater fishing, both allow you to spend the day on the water, and both can result in amazing fights with sportfish. But that’s really where the similarities end, as where and how you fish either inshore or offshore may be vastly different.
This quick guide dives into the differences between inshore vs. offshore fishing, what gear you need for each (including whether you need a boat), and the type of fish you might catch when you go deep sea, coastal, or backwater fishing.
Differences Between Inshore and Offshore Fishing
One of the most noticeable differences between inshore and offshore fishing is where they take place in the water. Inshore fishing happens close to the shore, usually along the coast or in backwaters. Offshore (or deep sea) fishing, on the other hand, happens anywhere from about 50 to 100 miles away from the shore in depths of around 100 feet.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether you want to go fishing inshore or offshore:
Because offshore fishing takes place so far off the coast to reach those deep waters (unless you go somewhere like Hawaii or Mexico), time is a significant factor when choosing where you want to fish. Offshore fishing typically requires at least half a day, and you can usually find overnight charters.
Inshore fishing requires less time commitment and makes it easier to pack up and head back early in the event of inclement weather or other unforeseen events. It may also be a more kid-friendly option, especially for younger children. If you plan to go fishing with kids, be sure to check our guide on teaching kids how to fish.
The boat you have access to may also determine where you can go fishing. Smaller boats, also often referred to as bay boats, around 17-22 feet are more appropriate for inshore fishing near the coast or in backwaters, where the waters are shallower and you need to make tighter turns. If you do not have access to a boat at all, then inshore fishing is still an option for you to enjoy. Some inshore fishing may not require a boat, as you can reach many of these waters by casting a line from the shore or a dock.
The further out you go from the coast, the larger, stronger, and more stable your boat needs to be to be able to handle the waters. This means you need a larger boat - the general recommendation is a minimum of 35 feet. When traveling far from the coast, you need to make additional considerations for your boat, such as how you outfit it. Check whether your boat is offshore fishing ready with our beginners guide to deep sea fishing.
Most of your fishing gear will stay the same no matter where you fish, but you may need to adjust your pole, reel, and line depending on what fish species you target, and how you are fishing for them. It’s worth noting that inshore fish tend to be smaller, while offshore fish are more trophy size, so this may help you decide where you want to fish, or whether you need new gear before you head out.
No matter where you are, it’s important to bring the following:
- Emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- GPS and navigation charts
- Personal flotation devices (at least one for each person on board)
- Rain gear
- Shoes with rubber soles
- Signaling devices
- VHF marine radio
- Weather-appropriate clothing
Any time you head out to the water, you are venturing out into the unknown. Anything can happen, so it’s important to be prepared for anything. When you are inshore fishing, it’s a lot easier to head in to get help should a situation arise where it’s needed, but this isn’t the case for offshore fishing. When you go deep sea fishing, you will be miles away from getting help. It’s often recommended that you bring at least one person on board that has emergency medical training, and you may need to pack a few extra items in your first aid kit. Learn more about fishing first aid and how to handle common and emergency situations in our guide.
Types of Fish
If you already know what fish you want to target, then you probably already know where you want to fish. Like we mentioned earlier, you’ll typically find smaller fish inshore and larger fish offshore, so if you’re looking for big fish and exciting fights, offshore fishing is the experience you’re looking for. If you want large, up-to-1,000-pounds fish, you need to go offshore fishing, but you can find some exciting fish, like tarpon, by staying close to the shore.
Here are some common fish you can find inshore and offshore fishing:
- Red fish
- Spotted sea trout
Not sure what bait you need to tease these fish onto the line? Check out our guides on saltwater fishing basics and saltwater live bait if you’ll be heading into a body of saltwater. Freshwater fishing in areas like lakes and rivers is also popular and we recommend checking out our guides to freshwater live bait and freshwater fishing basics to get prepared for your next trip.
Offshore fishing can be a demanding experience. You need to be comfortable on a boat for long stretches of time, which can be difficult for those that get seasick or younger children. You also need to know how to navigate rough waters, which can be challenging (or dangerous) for newer captains. If you’re new to fishing, or are still working on your sea legs, we suggest starting with inshore fishing. This will help you, and any passengers, from getting overwhelmed.
Which Type of Fishing Is Right for Me?
At the end of the day, you can have an amazing experience on the water no matter where you fish. Choosing whether you stay inshore or travel offshore for deep sea fishing really comes down to preference. If you’re still not sure where to fish, you can check out the interactive map below, or reach out to local anglers to see what they’re doing to find target fish species. There are few better resources when it comes to fishing than local fishermen.