How to Choose a Fishing Boat for Inshore Saltwater Trips

By Debbie Hanson

Oct 23, 2019

Basic tips on how to choose a fishing boat for inshore saltwater spots. General description of common inshore boats, drafts, lengths, other helpful information.

Learning how to choose a fishing boat for inshore saltwater trips doesn't have to be a complicated process. While there are many models and brands to choose from, buying a fishing boat really just involves a bit of thought and research.

Maybe you already know how to boat, but are thinking about making a transition from freshwater boating to saltwater boating. If this is the case, you should learn how to choose a boat built from specialized materials that will withstand a marine environment. You may also want to check a boat buying guide to learn about hull designs that have minimal draft for navigation over shallow water.

If you want to know how to choose a saltwater fishing boat for inshore use, consider the three main types of inshore boats:

  • Skiffs are small saltwater fishing boats. Generally speaking, most skiffs are less than 18 feet in length. These inshore boats are simplistically constructed and easy to trailer. They offer distinct advantages for fishing, including the fact that they can reach plenty of remote areas due to super shallow draft hulls in the 5 to 8-inch range and smaller outboard engines.
  • Flats boats are trailerable inshore boats that are typically in the 14 to 21-foot range with very shallow drafts (7 to 10-inches) and open casting decks. As the name implies, these are generally some of the best boats for fishing on the backcountry flats or in shallow bays. When a stealthy approach in skinny water is necessary, you can even maneuver these boats by poling from a platform on the stern.
  • Center console boats are designed with a helm in the middle of the boat, and an open deck all around. When learning how to choose a fishing boat that is the best size for inshore fishing, keep in mind that small center consoles in the 17 to 22-foot range are suited for use in protected bays. Most center consoles have slightly deeper drafts than a flats boat or skiff (usually around 11 or 12-inches), but often offer a slightly drier ride while still being easy to trailer.

Figuring out how to choose a boat for the inshore spots you want to fish doesn't have to be confusing or complicated. There is a boat for every budget, and shopping for the right one is part of the fun!

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.