Inshore Saltwater Fishing: 10 Tips for Beginners

By Debbie Hanson

Aug 15, 2018

List of inshore saltwater fishing tips for new anglers. Where to purchase a saltwater license, which inshore saltwater fishing spots are best, gear to use, checking tides, which baits to use

Inshore saltwater fishing trips are a fun and educational way for everyone in the family to spend time together outdoors. Protected bays and estuaries generally offer calmer waters with plenty of opportunities to catch a variety of saltwater species such as spotted seatrout, crevalle jack, flounder, redfish, sheepshead, and Spanish mackerel. It can be such an exciting experience because you never know what might be tugging at the end of your line while fishing in just a few feet of water!

If you're new to fishing in saltwater spots, these ten tips for beginners can help you get started. 
  1. Make sure that you have a valid saltwater fishing license for your state. You can buy or renew your saltwater fishing license either online or by phone, which makes the process super easy and convenient.
  2. Check a local tide chart when planning your inshore saltwater fishing trip. One of the most important inshore fishing tips is to plan your trips based on tidal movement. Mangroves and oyster bars can be good spots to fish on an incoming tide, whereas channels and passes can be productive spots as the tide goes out. To make it simple, remember that the baitfish will generally follow the tide, and the game fish will follow the baitfish.
  3. Start out with a 7-foot, medium weight spinning rod and reel combo that's rated for 10 to 20-pound test line. This set up will cover you in a number of inshore situations from shore or pier fishing to fishing in bays or estuaries.
  4. Bring along your polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses will not only protect your eyes from the sun, but will help you spot fish beneath the surface. These types of sunglasses are made using a special lens technology that cuts through the glare on the surface of the water.
  5. Try to fish early or late, particularly when fishing in warm climates or during the summer months. If you plan to fish from a pier or the shoreline, you can usually find a better spot and will have a more comfortable fishing experience during the cooler hours of the day.
  6. Use live or natural baits. Natural baits, such as shrimp or baitfish, offer you the best opportunity for consistent action. Natural baits can easily be rigged on a circle hook underneath a popping cork. As a general guideline, you should match your hook size to the size of the bait that you plan to use.
  7. Treat your live bait right. Make sure you keep your live bait in a covered bait bucket or in a livewell out of any direct sunlight. If you don't have a livewell with an aerator pump, invest in a bait bucket aerator that will maintain sufficient oxygen levels and keep your baits lively.
  8. Consider fishing from a public pier to start. Public piers are great places to gain experience with inshore saltwater fishing gear, rigging baits, and landing fish. This is particularly the case when on fishing outings as a family because kids can easily take breaks when needed.
  9. Keep your eyes on the water. Look for baitfish jumping on the surface or any change in water color that might indicate a depth change or drop-off. These are two signs that game fish are likely to be nearby. If you have the kids along, ask them to help you look for signs of baitfish or fish habitat -- it's a great way to keep kids engaged in between bites.
  10. When practicing catch and release, keep your catch out of the water only as long as you can hold your own breath. The best way to snap a picture is to keep the catch in water using a rubberized net or fish gripper until the camera, photographer, and angler are ready.

If you want to find a few good saltwater family fishing spots, just use the places to boat and fish map. You already have a list of inshore fishing tips that can contribute to your success!

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.