Inshore vs Surf Fishing: Find the Right Fishing Style for You!

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

inshore vs surf fishing

Do you struggle to decide between inshore vs surf fishing? These two fishing styles are often confusing, especially for newbie anglers. They’re popular saltwater activities, yet they provide a unique experience on the water!

Inshore fishing means catching fish on calm shores or coastlines. Surf fishing, however, offers the thrill of casting your lines on rough coastal waters. It involves wading into the waves or currents to catch fish.

In this article, we’ll explain each of them in detail, albeit help you choose the perfect fishing style. So, get ready, and let’s begin our adventure!

Inshore Fishing vs Surf Fishing: An Overview

There are many distinctions between these two styles of fishing. Take a look at the comparison table below:

Inshore Fishing Surf Fishing
Type of water Calm Rough
Equipment Lighter and maneuverable Heavier and more complex
Target specie Smaller varieties of fish Any fish present in the area
Casting technique Easier Challenging
Distance from the shore Within 15 miles from the shore Direct from the shoreline
Use of boat or kayak With or without, depending on the depth of the water Not necessary

The Definition

1. Inshore Fishing — Casting Your Lines in Quiet Shores


Also known as nearshore fishing, inshore fishing is a type of angling that takes place along coastal waters. Usually, fishing with this method is within 15 miles of the shoreline and at 30 meters in depth. You can fish inshore on a boat, a kayak or simply stand in shallower areas.

Generally, an inshore fisherman targets smaller fish that live near the shore. Hence, they need lighter and shorter tackles. Additionally, inshore fishing is less physically demanding than surf and deep-sea fishing.

2. Surf Fishing — Casting Your Lines in Rough Waters


Are you into a more challenging fishing experience? If so, surf fishing (or surfcasting) may be your cup of tea. It’s a fun saltwater activity that lets you catch larger fish species like sharks, striped bass, or red drum.

Like inshore fishing, surf fishing is done from the shoreline. However, instead of calm waters, surf anglers will cast their lines into the breaking waves and turbulent waters of the surf zone. Also, you can directly fish from a beach or jetty rather than a boat.

Surf angles often contend with currents, waves, and tides to target species that come close to shore to look for food. They may include larger fish species like sharks, striped bass, or red drum.

Surf vs. Inshore Fishing: How Are They Similar?


Although different, inshore and surf fishing have a few things in common. For example:

1. Catch Diverse Fish Species

Both surf and inshore saltwater fishing happen in coastal environments. Therefore, they provide opportunities to catch a variety of fish. For example, you can entice and hook redfish, snook, trout, bluefish, and more.

2. Relaxing Recreational Activities

These activities allow anglers to connect with nature, unwind, and enjoy the outdoors. They bring a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you successfully apply your knowledge, skills, and techniques to outsmart your target species.

Revealing Their Differences

Surf and inshore saltwater fishing offer unique experiences, with differences in target species, casting techniques, gear, and fishing locations. Let’s further explore each factor:

1. Target Species


While there is some overlap in the species targeted by inshore and surf fishing, each style offers a distinct range of fish to pursue. Inshore fishers often pursue smaller fish that live and school close to the shoreline. These species include redfish, pompano, speckled trout, and snook.

In surf fishing, anglers can catch larger species, such as red drums, striped bass, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish. Most often, these fish move to shallow waters to feed on baitfish.

2. Casting Techniques


One of the significant differences between inshore and surf fishing lies in the casting techniques used. Surf fishing often requires longer casts to achieve the necessary distance. Additionally, heavier baits like live shrimp, mullet, or squid are preferred.

For inshore fishing, anglers use various baits and lures to entice different fish species. You can do shorter casts because fish only swims in shallower waters or near underwater structures.

3. Tackle and Equipment


Keen to know the distinctions between an inshore rod vs. a surf rod? Rods, reels, and lines for fishing inshore and into the surf zone may differ in weight, height, and strength.

Surf fishing rods are typically longer, between 8 to 14ft. Weighted, braided lines (20 lbs or more test strength) are also ideal in surf fishing to increase strength, sensitivity, and casting distance. Contrastingly, lightweight rods and lines are more than enough when fishing inshore.

4. Locations


Typically, surf fishing locations include the open ocean, sandy beaches, or other coastal areas with crashing waves. Inshore fishing occurs in bays, estuaries, saltwater flats, rocky jetties, and oyster bars. Often, it requires boats or kayaks to access prime spots and cover more water.

Pros and Cons of Each Fishing Style

To help you choose the ideal angling adventure for your next outing, let’s look at the pros and cons of inshore vs. surf fishing.

1. Inshore Fishing

  • Ample opportunities to catch diverse species.
  • No need to worry about weather conditions.
  • Convenient and accessible fishing grounds.
  • Less expensive fishing gear.
  • Safer and easy for kids beginners.
  • Limited fishing area.
  • Not as thrilling as surf fishing.
  • Less likely to catch larger species.

2. Surf Fishing

  • High odds of catching trophy fish.
  • Demanding yet rewarding experience.
  • Doesn’t demand a boat or kayak.
  • Waves and undertows can be dangerous.
  • Challenging for novice anglers.
  • Dependent on weather conditions.

Which Fishing Style is Better?

Both styles offer distinct benefits and challenges, so your choice depends on your preferences, experience, and objectives.

Inshore fishing may be better for those who prefer a more sheltered environment, higher catch rates, and the use of boats or kayaks. In contrast, you can go surf fishing if you enjoy the challenge of casting from the shoreline, targeting a wider variety of species, and the potential for larger catches.

Moreover, inshore anglers typically require shorter rods, medium to heavy action reels, and lighter lines than their surf fishing counterparts. This makes it more accessible for beginners and those on a budget.

Finally, exploring both techniques can help you discover which method best suits your preferences and goals.

Considerations When Choosing Between Surf and Inshore Fishing


To ensure a successful and enjoyable angling experience, you should consider the following factors:

1. Your Goal

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush and the luck of bringing home trophy-sized fish, surf fishing might be the ticket. If you’re after a relaxing day on the water fishing without much action, inshore fishing may be more appropriate.

2. Angling skills

Your skill level as an angler can also influence your decision between surf and inshore fishing. Surf fishing often requires a higher level of skill in casting long distances, reading the surf, and understanding the behavior of fish in the surf zone.

For less experienced anglers, fishing inshore is easier. Besides effortless techniques, it only involves navigating shallow waters and locating areas where clusters of fish likely swim.


In brief, the differences between inshore vs surf fishing lie in the specific locations, techniques, and gear. In addition, both styles are equally fulfilling, depending on your preferences and goals. Therefore, it’s best to understand these factors before heading on a fishing trip.

Regardless of your choice, you should cherish every moment and savor every catch you make. That said, grab your fishing gear now and experience the thrill of coastal fishing for yourself!

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