Inshore fishing, which is commonly called “flats” fishing by experienced anglers, is saltwater fishing in shallow water. Anglers can either be within a short distance of the shoreline, in a bay or a tidal creek that empties into the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. It is a popular option for novice anglers or those seeking a low-cost, low commitment way to enjoy this time-honored sport.
Water-depth is the biggest difference between inshore and offshore fishing, but as we’ll explain below, cost is another significant difference.
With over 1,350 miles of coastline and numerous bays from Pensacola in the Panhandle to Biscayne Bay in Miami, residents and visitors alike have ample opportunities to fish for a wide variety of species that call these shallow waters home.
Besides fishing itself, inshore anglers can also enjoy different types of scenery. Examples include:
- Coastal vegetation (i.e. mangroves, sea oats, cordgrass).
- Coastal animal species (i.e. manatees, sea turtles, dolphin).
- Bird species (i.e. pelicans, sea gulls, least turns, eagles, hawks).
- Other water sports like sailing, skiing and wakeboarding during a Florida coastal vacation.
Aside from these opportunities, inshore fishermen typically don’t have to contend with seasickness. As we explain here, an offshore trip can quickly turn sour if you begin feeling sick.
We invite you to continue reading to learn more about inshore fishing in Florida.
Common inshore species
Bays, inlets and backwaters of Florida are teeming with a wide variety of fish. Some are year-round residents while other species migrate to our warmer climate from the brutally cold waters of the north. Some of the more famous inshore fish species in Florida include:
Red Fish (or Red Drum)
Less targeted species for inshore sport fishing like the Flounder, Mangrove Snapper, and those highly protected species as listed above all have strict limits on how many you can catch. To ensure you’re not over-fishing a particular species, consult with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s recreational saltwater regulations.
Getting to the right spots
One reason many anglers prefer inshore fishing is that it doesn’t require a massive investment in a boat. Anglers can either fish off the shoreline itself, or reach more remote spots in a kayak or pole skiff. For as little as a few hundred dollars, a fisherman can have the ideal craft for exploring all the nooks and crannies of Florida’s coastal areas.
Of course, anglers can also rent kayaks and other water craft from outfitters located near popular spots like Indian River Lagoon, Florida Bay and St. Joe Bay.
If you don’t have much in the way of gear or simply would like the benefit of an experienced guide, numerous inshore fishing charters are available across Florida.
Florida Shallow Water Experts for Hire
The best way to get into Florida inshore fishing and understand the skills and equipment required to make it a successful hobby, or to just plain have the best time fishing during your Florida vacation is to hire a local fishing guide. Reserving a spot on an inshore or backcountry charter can be done online or by phone with ease and little planning. The best part is that inshore fishing charters are not “party boats” like you find in most marinas where 60 people are lined up aboard a general charter expedition. You will instead find yourself on a private boat with just your party and your personal guide for the area. In some of the most popular areas in the state, we recommend the services listed below to get you started.
Reel Aggressive Charters
215 Mimosa Cir, Sarasota, FL 34232
Light Tackle Adventures
5109 Gandy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33611
Fin Factor Charters
400 Jetty Park Rd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
Reeling in the fish
Basically speaking, most inshore fishermen use an open-spool reel with up to 15 lb. test line on a medium action rod. Many freshwater rod and reel combos can be used for inshore saltwater fishing as well.
Baits also come in a variety of sizes and types – both live and artificial. Live baits can include shrimp, pinfish and squid. Artificial baits vary, but many mimic shrimp or another type of live bait. Other lures like spinner baits and paddle tails are designed to attract the attention of fish in the area.
You may think there isn’t much technique to fishing the bays and coastal waters of Florida, but as any guide will tell you, that just isn’t the case.
The sight fishing technique is considered one of the most common methods. As the name suggests, you stand on your boat or skiff above the water where you should be able to see actual fish in the water, especially if it is really clear. However, sight fishing involves much more than seeing fish and casting your bait next to it.
In order to not spook the fish, you have to make sure you don’t cast your bait high into the air so there isn’t a loud splash when it hits the water. To prevent a loud splash, cast your bait from your side(s) rather than over your head.
An experienced inshore fishing charter guide will be able to instruct you on the best bait and technique for a particular species in a particular area.
Inshore or flats fishing in Florida is popular for both residents and visitors as it doesn’t require the investment offshore fishing does. Even those with no skill or experience can easily enjoy the sport of fishing without having to risk sea-sickness and several hundred dollars.