Inshore vs Offshore Fishing: Everything You Need to Know

Most people think that inshore and offshore fishing are more similar than different, but that’s not true.

There are lots of differences that separate inshore and offshore fishing. Not only the location of where you are, but the type of fish and type of bait are different as well. All the differences do depend on where you are in relation to the shore. 

What is Inshore Fishing?

Inshore fishing takes place between zero and nine miles away from the shore in order to be considered inshore fishing. Also, the depth of the water should be anywhere up to 100 feet deep.

a man fly fishing at a lake

Fly fishing is one of the varieties of inshore fishing.

Because of how close to the shore you are, inshore fishing is much calmer than offshore fishing. The water isn’t near as intense as it can be when offshore fishing. Inshore fishing is most popular in freshwater lakes and rivers. 

What is Offshore Fishing?

Often referred to as deep-sea fishing, offshore fishing is when you’re more than nine miles away from shore. Most of the time, offshore fishing takes place about 20 or 30 miles out. When you go offshore fishing, you need to dedicate the whole day to it.

It can take anywhere between half a day to two days to reach the right area to fish it. You also need a lot more equipment to go deep-sea fishing than you do when inshore fishing.

Main Differences

Here are the main differences between inshore and offshore fishing:

  • Fishing boats
  • Type of bait
  • Species of fish
  • Weather and time of year
  • Expense
  • Equipment
  • Attention required

Fishing Boats

The type of boat that you will need to go offshore fishing is a big game fishing boat. You’ll need to get out deep into the sea or lake you’re on, so the boat needs lots of fuel and speed. Most people who go deep-sea fishing will charter a boat so they don’t have to buy a boat.

Most beaches have companies that will take you deep sea fishing. You shouldn’t go deep sea fishing if you get seasick easily because it can get quite rocky out there, and while the boat is bigger than regular fishing boats, it’s not big enough to not rock with the waves. 

Inshore fishing boats are a little bit more lowkey than offshore fishing boats. These boats are smaller, but they are very fast. You can use a motorboat, or you can use a boat that doesn’t have a motor like a rowboat, canoe, or kayak. This usually depends on where you want to stay. A motorboat would be better for rivers because you can stay in one spot instead of going with the current. 

Type of Bait

When offshore fishing, you definitely need to use heavy bait. The fish are much bigger the deeper the water is, so it’s important to have bait that suits the type of fish that you’re catching. Live bait works, but dead bait is usually best. Definitely don’t use fake bait for this type of fishing because the smell of real bait will be what attracts them. 

Inshore fishing is a bit more relaxed when it comes to the kind of bait you need. You obviously can’t use super big bait because the fish won’t be as big, but light tackle is very inexpensive. You can use live or dead and real or fake. Some people even make their own fake worms using plastic resin and natural plastic. Also, you can reuse them!

Species of Fish

The types of fish that you catch are one of the biggest differences between the two types of fishing. When deep-sea fishing, you’re going to catch larger fish, like wahoo, amberjack, marlin, and tuna. You can also catch sharks! Some other fish that you might snag while offshore fishing is tarpon, kingfish, cobia, and mahi-mahi.

Flounder fish

Flounder fish are very common catches in shallow water.

The fish you catch when inshore fishing is much smaller in size. However, you’re more likely to catch more fish when inshore fishing than you are when offshore fishing. Some fish that you’ll catch when inshore fishing is snapper, snook, redfish, flounder, and striped bass. Some other fish that you could catch are speckled trout and grouper. 

Weather and Time of Year

Offshore fishing can sometimes be heavily disrupted by the weather and season. Fish behavior is much different when it’s raining or storming, so it’s much harder to gauge what the fish are going to do. Significant weather like that can also affect the sonar technology used when offshore fishing, so you should try to pick a chartering company that will work with you if the weather is rough on the day you picked.

Inshore fishing is a lot easier to do in the rain than offshore fishing. It’s also much more consistent throughout the year than deep-sea fishing. Smaller fish don’t care as much about the weather as big fish, so you don’t have to worry about them changing their patterns when the weather acts up. They also don’t care what time of year it is. 

Expense

It’s very possible to rack up a big bill when planning an offshore fishing trip. Everything about them is incredibly expensive. They require very heavy-duty equipment that you might not want to buy because you don’t go deep-sea fishing super often.

So, you rent a fishing charter to take you out to sea, and those are not cheap at all. You should be careful and mindful of the price you’re paying so you’re not getting cheated out of a good experience because you spent so much money.

On the other hand, inshore fishing is a lot less expensive. You might also have to charter a boat if you don’t have one, but you could also rent kayaks or canoes. You won’t be using all of the equipment that offshore fishing uses, so you don’t need to worry about finding any of that. You can also just skip a boat altogether and fish off a pier if you wanted to. 

Equipment

Many people use sonar, GPS, and fishing tracking equipment when offshore fishing. Everything about offshore fishing is just bigger than inshore fishing. The fishing poles that you need to use will have to be a lot sturdier because they need to catch bigger fish.

You can’t just use the same pole that you catch redfish with because there’s a massive difference in size. Inshore fishing is much more lowkey. You can use any kind of fishing rod that you want because the fish don’t require one that’s super thick.

You’ll still probably need to use a fish tracking device while inshore fishing because it will help you catch the most fish. 

Attention Required

When deep-sea fishing, you can actually walk away from your fishing pole. This is one of the main reasons why it’s very popular for bachelor parties. Offshore fishing usually means that you catch fewer fish, therefore you don’t need to hover over your pole.

You obviously still need to be paying some attention to your pole so you don’t miss your chance on a prize marlin or shark, but you can take your eye off your fishing reel for a few minutes here and there until it’s a spinning reel. With inshore fishing, you’re more likely to be catching lots of fish.

You need to be paying lots of attention to your fishing reel. You also can’t necessarily walk away from your rod if you’re on a kayak. Fishing should probably be the main thing on your mind when inshore fishing. 

Fishing Rods and Reels

There are specific fishing rods meant for saltwater fishing. If you’re interested in getting your own saltwater fishing rod, you should check out what Amazon has to offer. If you’re more interested in inshore fishing, you should get a lighter rod that has a spinning reel. You’ll also use a lighter line when inshore fishing. 

Types of Fishing

The main types of fishing are:

  • Fly fishing
  • Trolling
  • Drifting
  • Still fishing
  • Dock fishing
  • Popping

Fly Fishing

Many people think of fly fishing as an art form. Everything about fly fishing depends on the variety of fish that you’re trying to catch. Fly fishing got its name because the bait used is called fly bait. There are three different kinds of flies: nymphs, streamers, and dry flies. 

Dry flies are the most common kind of fly, and they sit on top of the water to imitate a fly. Nymphs mimic water invertebrates by floating just under the surface of the water. Streamers copy the behavior of leeches or other aquatic life.

Water conditions, type of fish, and location all impact which flies you should use. The final huge difference between fly fishing and regular fishing is the way that you cast the line. You should let out about a rod and a half of line by casting the rod behind you and letting go until you have the perfect length. If done correctly, the fish should think that a fly or bug has landed on the surface of the water. 

Trolling

Trolling usually works best in a motorboat. When trolling, you’re essentially pulling the hooked lure behind you in a moving boat. It doesn’t matter how many lines you have in the water at a time because the point of this fishing method is to trick the fish into thinking that the bait is swimming through the water.

There are several different ways to do the trolling method. The most common type of fish that you’ll catch when trolling depends on where you’re fishing and the type of equipment you use. However, don’t be surprised if you catch barracuda, wahoo, and kingfish when saltwater fishing.

When trolling in freshwater, you’ll most likely catch sturgeon, bass, and walleye. The main thing that you should remember when trolling is that speed is of the essence. 

Drifting

When drifting, you usually let the boat that you’re using move with the current of the water over different fish habitats. The depth of your bait doesn’t matter when drift fishing. Natural bait works the best when drift fishing; however, lures and jigs work just as well too.

Drifting also works best on ponds, lakes, and rivers because the water is a little bit calmer than the ocean. You don’t want to be caught up in severe waves when drifting. You’ll need to have a weight on the end of your line to ensure that it’s near the bottom of the water.

The most common kinds of saltwater fish caught when drifting are mahi-mahi, kingfish, and redfish. If you’re in a motorboat, you can leave the motor on very low to ensure that you’re moving if the current is too weak to actually move you around the water.

Still Fishing

This is the simplest method of fishing, but it can have very good results. It’s what most people think of when they think of fishing. All you have to do is put your bait in the water and wait for a fish to bite it. It catches the most fish because it can be done from everywhere. You can still fish from a boat, jetty, shore, or dock. 

You can also still fish in any depth, but it works best in shallow water or deep water. You also need to use a bobber or float to make it easier to fish in shallow water. In deeper water, you should use weights on your line to make the bait go deeper. 

Dock Fishing

Dock fishing

Dock fishing is a type of inshore fishing that doesn’t require a boat or the expenses that come with it.

Dock fishing is just like it sounds; you’re just fishing from a dock. You’ll obviously be catching inshore fish because docks don’t go out super far into the water. You’ll probably catch spotted bass, flounder, and snook. 

Popping

Pop fishing is often referred to as one of the most exciting methods of fishing. You get to be more in the action of fishing. You pop fish by using a lure called a popper along the surface in quick fetching motions. The popper jumps across the water and makes a sound that pops. 

You need more of a long-distance rod to pop fish correctly. You’ll definitely need the popper lure because it’s what gives the fishing method its name. The type of fish that you catch when popping is tuna, kingfish, and striped bass. There are also specific charters that specialize in pop fishing. 

Conclusion

Whichever type of fishing you try, there are several differences between the two. You can try both kinds and decide which you like best. Offshore fishing is a bit more expensive and you catch less fish. However, you won’t catch a once-in-a-lifetime fish when inshore fishing. Both kinds have their advantages, so it just depends on which you enjoy the most. 

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.