Ultimate Guide • Updated Wed, Jan 10, 2024
Inshore fishing is perhaps the most accessible saltwater fishing style. Lower costs and easy access to inshore habitats make it available to millions of anglers year-round. Tarpon, bonefish, snook, and permit are prized catches for anglers in the tropics of Florida and the Caribbean, whereas redfish, sea trout, striped bass, and sheepshead are common targets further north in the Lowcountry and along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Whether it is your first inshore fishing excursion or you’re looking to learn more, this beginner’s guide aims to provide you with the knowledge needed before you reach the water.
Sight fishing in the grass flats of Charleston, SC. Courtesy of Lowcountry Premier Fly Fishing.
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Inshore fishing is typically defined as fishing in shallower environments within tidal estuaries, out to within a few miles from shore. In most cases, you are fishing within sight of shore in waters between a few inches and 20 feet in depth. Comparatively, offshore fishing constitutes fishing in waters usually deeper than 100 feet.
Inshore fishing grounds are often easy to reach and navigate by watercraft or by foot and are protected from the harshness of the ocean. Inshore fishing includes several different habitats, each with its own unique species and techniques. AnyCreek's roster of expert inshore fishing guides are a sure-fire way to maximize your chances of success on the water, regardless of experience level.
Flats provide ideal shalow water feeding grounds for many predatory game fish. Baitfish gather in these shallow flats to feed and seek refuge, while larger fish come to feed, breed, and warm themselves on days with cooler temperatures and high sun. Seagrass beds are great spots to find predatory fish as they try to ambush baitfish schools in the shallows. If you’re looking at a chart or satellite imagery, seagrass will often appear darker in color. In general, more seagrass means more baitfish, meaning more feeding activity from predatory species as well.
Due to the thick nature of this vegetation, many of our guides recommend using topwater and weedless lures to fish most effectively. Any tackle that can keep offering free of grass will prove successful.
Flats fishing is an internationally renowned type of fishing, as these environments house trophy fish across the world — from massive permit in Exmouth, Australia to giant bull redfish in Louisiana. However, you don’t need to venture far, as world-class saltwater flats fishing is readily available throughout the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines of the Untied States. Florida is an ideal location to fish turtle grass flats — try the Everglades, Cedar Key, Key West, Islamorada, Key Largo, or Tampa Bay.
For a whole different sort of experience, you can also fish flooded spartina grass flats for tailing redfish throughout the Carolina Lowcountry, Georgia, and North Florida on the famed "flood tide."
For the best experience, book a trip with an experienced fishing guide for insider knowledge and local insights.
Mangroves are a type of tree optimized for growing in saltwater environments. They produce elaborate root structures, allowing the trees to respirate and survive throughout the tide cycle. These roots help to stabilize the bottom, and provide great shelter for baitfish and predators looking to ambush an unsuspecting meal item. Mangroves are a crucial part of coastal ecosystems, sheltering species and coastal communities from the relentless conditions of the open ocean. Common in southern Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, and throughout the Carribbean, they are an ideal habitat for spotted sea trout, red drum, sheepshead, snapper, snook, baby tarpon, and more.
Fishing within the mangroves is best done by targeting the edge of the mangrove lines, near grass flats. Places where water runs in or out are where predatory fish like to hide and ambush their prey. A favorite tackle for these areas is live shrimp - or shrimp immitations - pinfish, mullet, and crabs. Snook and redfish are known to travel along mangrove shorelines as well and favor this tackle.
These waterways often harbor larger fish and provide access to freshwater rivers and streams. Canal fishing is especially popular in Florida, where spots like Miami, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers have a multitude of canals to fish from. Tarpon, snook, and peacock bass are known catches in these areas.
Fishing within canals is dependent on a few factors. These habitats are home to fish of both freshwater and saltwater variety as the conditions change. However, canals are dependent on water flowing through them to make them inhabitable. Be sure to check with a local fly shop or authority to see what’s biting.
Inshore reefs, like offshore reefs, provide a haven for fish from oceanic forces. Understanding the marine life and structure of these sites is crucial. Reefs teem with vibrant marine communities, housing species like snapper, grouper, and amberjack. Meanwhile, wrecks often shelter larger predators like barracuda, kingfish, and cobia. Learning to interpret fish behavior around these structures is key; fish tend to congregate near ledges, holes, or structures for shelter or feeding opportunities.
Islamorada, Marathon, Key Largo, and Biscayne Bay are just a few great spots for world-class reef fishing. Tactics to fish the inshore reefs in these locations will vary depending on the depth of water you are fishing in. A stronger rod and tackle that is suited for a harder fight on the line will be necessary. Consult your seasoned fishing guide on your next guided fishing trip to learn more about how to fish the reefs properly.
Docks and bridges are great spots for inshore fishing, with or without a boat. The spaces around docks often harbor an assortment of fish seeking shelter and food. Species like snook, redfish, and sheepshead frequently seek refuge in these areas. Fishing around pilings and under docks requires finesse; precision casting and patience are essential skills to master. For some helpful tips on how to improve your cast before your next trip, check out this recent article.
Bridges create unique opportunities due to their structure and the currents breaks they create. Snapper, tarpon, snook, redfish, sheepshead, and even grouper can be found around these areas. When fishing near bridges, understanding the tidal flow and positioning yourself strategically can significantly enhance your chances of a successful catch. Casting along the shadow lines created by the bridge or using the currents to carry your bait can earn a look from a variety of inshore game fish species.
While fishing piers, docks, and bridges, adapting your technique to the specific environment and understanding the behavior of the targeted fish species are crucial steps toward a fruitful day on the water. Additionally, be mindful of local regulations.
Usually, a medium-action spinning or baitcasting rod, around 6 to 7 feet in length, accompanied by a saltwater reel with a smooth drag system is a solid starting point for fishing inshore.
Our expert, local fishing guides utilize live bait options such as shrimp, mullet, or small baitfish to entice species like the speedy, elusive bonefish or the aggressive snook, common targets in inshore waters. Techniques involving live baitfish near mangroves or docks often come into play for snook fishing. Additionally, guides may introduce artificial lures like soft plastic jigs, topwater plugs, and spoons tailored to entice species such as the resilient redfish, known for its powerful runs, especially in shallow water.
Compared to offshore fishing, you can expect to use generally lighter gear. Sight fishing and fly fishing are also common practices for most inshore habitats, though this depends on your environment, conditions, and your preferences as an angler. Your fishing guide will take you through all the steps and give you a first-class experience, showing you all of what inshore fishing can be.
If you are new to inshore fishing and want to learn from a professional, start your journey with AnyCreek. Your guide will have the necessary licenses, gear, tackle, and equipment to ensure your trip is smooth and successful. A guided trip will allow you to fish these inshore habitats properly, especially if you are looking to access inshore reefs, mangrove channels, and grass flats systems.
Check the local forecast before you start packing to ensure you’re prepared. Your guide will have all necessary licenses, gear, and tackle, but don’t forget to pack essentials — snacks, sunscreen, hats, polarized sunglasses, sunshirts, a raincoat, and a camera.
Want to try inshore fishing with your larger party? No problem! Check out this article to book a trip for your large group.
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