Offshore vs. Inshore Fishing

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When you go fishing, what do you imagine?

For some people, it’s as simple as bringing a rod to the water and hoping for the best. For others, a fishing excursion is about an adventurous, safari-like experience that takes you out somewhere you’ve never been in search of the best possible fish.

Whatever your preference, one thing is clear: offshore and inshore fishing are two very different types of the same sport.

To help settle things, we’ve put together a guide on offshore and inshore fishing so you can understand the pros and cons of each, answers to any questions you might have, and some specific steps on choosing a fishing excursion that’s right for you:

Offshore vs. Inshore Fishing: What’s the Difference?

The most obvious difference between the two is where you’ll go. Offshore fishing or “deep sea” fishing, goes beyond thirty meters deep, by most definitions, and includes a wide range of deep sea fishing activities. Meanwhile, Inshore fishing, also known as “bay fishing,” largely refers to just about anything else, such as fishing near the coast or in an inlet from a boat.

Inshore Fishing Offshore Fishing
Water depth Up to thirty meters deep, typically marked with “green-colored” inshore waters before the water takes on a deeper blue color. Beyond thirty meters deep. In Destin, FL—our harbor—we’re very close to the line of demarcation where the deep water takes on the distinct blue color, making the offshore trip more convenient. This is where the more “exotic” fish can be found.
How far the boat goes out Close to the shore (inside 15 miles). Miles and miles, depending on weather and time-limiting factors. Approximately 15 miles on average, but potentially 80+ miles on longer trips.
What types of fish Snapper and sharks (such as blacktip sharks) are common; however, larger gamefish like Tuna are typically “offshore” fishing game. Varies depending on the time of year, but potentially includes sharks and game fish. For example, you might expect anything from White/Black Snapper and Tuna to King Mackerel and Mahi Mahi, though it’s hard to promise any specific fish on any given day.
Size of boat Inshore boats, also known as “Bay Boats,” average about 22 feet, and typically without a top. In excess of 22-feet. Our maximum capacity includes 22 passengers beyond the captain and the mate.
Do I need a license? Yes, if not chartering. No additional licensing required on a charter boat, as that’s taken care of by the captain and included in the charter.
Length of trip 3-4 hours but can go a full day. 6 hours is typical, but your experience depends on your specific needs. Check our rates; we even include 3-day excursions.
What should I bring? Bait, rods, and safety equipment, including high-SPF sunscreen if you plan on being under the sun for an extended period. Beyond personal safety items like sunscreen? Yourselves! Much of the equipment will be included, such as bait and rods and safety equipment. Boat also contains a satellite TV, 96nm radar, satellite phone, and satellite weather.

Depending on the kind of fishing you do, you may have very different priorities. An offshore fishing excursion can take a half day of your time and host an entire family as a great way to spend time during vacation. And inshore fishing can be as simple as grabbing a rod and killing some time. It largely depends on your priorities and your goals.

How can you determine that? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons:

Offshore Fishing, Pros and Cons

We know what you’re thinking. What possible cons can there be for offshore fishing? Hey—we have to compare it to inshore fishing, after all. And as you’ll see, it depends on your mood, your goals for the excursion, and what you want to catch. Here are the pros and cons you’ll need to know about, especially when weighed next to inshore fishing:


  • Large groups. The maximum capacity on our Destin, Florida trips, for example, is 22 people including a captain and a mate. That means we can facilitate a large group for an outing, which is especially nice for vacations.
  • Exotic fish. Deep-sea or offshore fishing gives you plenty of chances to catch fish you never would catch from inshore fishing at home. That’s part of the joy of the excursion—experiencing something new. Offshore fishing can be an entirely different breed of adventure, and you’ll see that the second you get a bite. (And if you’re looking for big game like marlin and tuna, offshore fishing is the only way to go).
  • When you board a boat for offshore fishing, you also get the added convenience of our gear, our instructions, and the experience of our captain and mate. All you have to do is tag along and join the journey.


  • Once you’re offshore, you’re offshore. You can’t exactly pack away the rods and go home right away—not if you want to get your money’s worth.

Inshore Fishing, Pros and Cons

Inshore fishing, as we’ve stated, can refer to a wide range of fishing activities, but for our purposes here, we’ll keep it simple and use it to speak specifically about shallow water fishing.


  • With bait and rod in hand, it doesn’t take much to start fishing—provided you also have a boat! You may need to see about a fishing license, however, which is one advantage of the large group experience of offshore fishing.
  • You don’t have to go too far to handle inshore fishing, which means that it’s easy to get started once you have everything you need.
  • Customize your own group. It’s easy to fish inshore with just one person, or organize an entire group—the options are really limitless, depending on local ordinances and any issues with public land.


  • Fish selection. There may be some limits to inshore fishing, especially since it can be so hard to change your location in search of new fish. In other words, you may feel yourself tempted to turn an inshore fishing experience to an offshore one when the fish aren’t biting!

You might notice that the strengths of one type of fishing suit your tastes better than the other style. Or you may feel that you’re intrigued by one of these strengths that you hadn’t considered. Either way, take it into account as you plan your next trip.

What Should You Expect Out of an Offshore vs. an Inshore Fishing Trip?

If you’re paying money for a fishing trip, it only stands to reason that you should want some sense of what you’ll get for your investment.

With an Offshore fishing trip, there are no guarantees that you’ll catch something for every line that’s cast. However, with an experienced charter and a captain and a mate who know where to find the fish, you should be confident that you’ll have a deep sea adventure.

It should be noted here that Inshore fishing can be just as tricky. There’s no guarantee that fish will always be biting when you set up your lines. And because Offshore fishing allows you to move freely about the water in search of where the fish are biting, you sometimes get a larger sample size of what fish are biting on that day than you might with Inshore fishing.

What Kind of Fishing Can You Do When Fishing Offshore?

Offshore fishing means you’ll have access to deep sea fish, which can introduce a whole new type of fishing. But what specific types of fish can you expect to catch?

The best answer: it depends on where you fish. Where we’re based—Destin, Florida—there is a wide range of potential fish to catch, including a wide variety of Snapper, Grouper, Mahi Mahi, Mackerel—the list goes on and on. And because offshore fishing has such a degree of mobility, it’s possible to target different areas depending on where the fish are biting that particular day.

If you have an experienced captain like Captain Jason Mikel—someone who has a sense of where the good spots are—you’ll have a much better chance of catching the fish you want.

It’s also possible to catch a wide variety of shark. In Destin, Florida, some of the most common shark species include blacktip, mako sharks, and sandbar sharks. Overall, you’d be amazed at the variety of fish you can catch on the Emerald Coast.

If you’re fishing in shallow water inshore, you might have access to some of these fish. But you’ll also find that inshore fishing in inlets and rivers can dramatically impact the kind of fish you should expect to catch, which in turn will affect the types of bait you should bring.

What Should You Do to Prepare for a Day of Offshore Fishing?

Offshore fishing is an adventure in and of itself. So while it’s convenient to board a boat where the day is planned for you and all the gear is ready, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some adequate preparing.

How should you prepare for a day of fishing offshore? We have a few ideas:

  • Even if you don’t think it’s particularly hot today, guess what? Things change. Clouds part and UV rays get through anyway. You need to make sure you’re protected, especially out on the ocean when there’s not always enough to keep you shaded from the sun. Make sure you pack something waterproof and with enough SPF so you don’t have to keep re-applying every quarter-hour.
  • Although any offshore fishing tour doesn’t have to take up so much of your time that it eats into your meal time, you never know when that hunger bug is going to strike. And even if someone in your group tends to get seasick, there may be someone else in your group who has the exact opposite feeling.
  • Prepare for seasickness. You’ll find that it can strike even if you’ve never been traditionally seasick; sometimes, these things are hard to predict. When that happens, you want to make sure to get the most out of your experience and remain prepared.

How about preparing for a day of inshore fishing? Generally you won’t have to worry so much about packing supplies because you may have access to your vehicle or even your home. But try to keep some of the same concerns in mind as you prepare for your inshore fishing.

How Long is an Offshore Fishing Trip?

This is one thing to consider when you weigh an offshore and an inshore fishing trip against each other. An offshore fishing trip will usually be a fixed time—say, an afternoon, if that’s what you charter. An inshore fishing trip can be just about any time you want to spend fishing.

It comes down to planning for your deep sea adventure. What kind of day do you want to have, and what do you think your party might enjoy the most? You can even consult with your charter to find out more about what there is to customize—i.e., what kind of fish to pursue, where to go, and even other aspects of the trip like scheduling.

Should You Choose Offshore or Inshore Fishing?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. We find that many of our guests in Destin, Florida have a great time with offshore fishing because it’s such a unique experience. Not only do they get to go on an adventure of a lifetime, but the catch can make for a great story that they’ll refer to again and again. We think it’s an important part of a vacation to go out and enjoy everything that the sea has to offer—after all, you’ll want to put something in those vacation photos!

Call 850-837-6800 to reserve your charter fishing trip on the Finest Kind or book here!

Sources: Harbor Walk Charters

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