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June 02, 2014

Catch Inshore Fish Offshore

Head offshore for mega-size versions of inshore favorites.

(Be sure to click through all the images in the gallery above.)

The lexicon used to describe where anglers fish is confusing, even frustrating. “Inshore” or “coastal” often describes fishing in estuarine waters, at least in my stomping grounds, where fishermen target species like speckled trout, redfish, and flounder in rivers, creeks, and bays.

“Offshore” fishing begins once you leave the inlet and make a run for blue water. However, offshore fishing is not dependent on the length of the run to the fishing grounds or how deep the water is — offshore fishing might start just a couple of miles (at ports such as South Florida, Panama or the Bahamas) or hours off your coast.

Even with those broad designations, the fish don’t always cooperate. There are no fences in the salt, so inshore species often leave inside waters for the Gulf and Atlantic. Usually these movements coincide with spawning rituals, an exciting time of year to target oversize specimens, at least for catch-and-release fishermen.

So the next time you want to catch a trophy species, consider heading out of brackish areas and into open waters. Think differently on your next trip — consider it a role reversal — and you could score the “inshore” fish of a lifetime offshore.

Snook in High Water

South Florida fishermen regularly target snook up rivers, on mangrove-lined flats, and in passes and inlets. But not many know that offshore wrecks attract snook each summer, starting as early as late spring.

“My favorite spots average about 5 miles offshore, in anywhere from 20 to 60 feet of water,” says Capt. Glyn Austin, of Sebastian, Florida. “Most people don’t really target them because it’s all catch-and-release fishing June through August. Most people want kingfish or cobia, something they can take home.” Austin says all the fish are all longer than the 32-inch slot maximum, so the oversize linesiders can’t be kept no matter if the season is open or closed.

“Typically I use the same tackle at the wrecks as at the inlets,” says Austin, “a 7- to 8-foot rod, 20- to 40-pound braid, and baits like threadfin herring and pogies.”

Austin fishes mostly from Port Canaveral to Sebastian, but snook exhibit the same behavior farther south on both Florida coasts around barges and reefs.

“The snook are definitely attracted to structure and hang on the bottom,” says Austin. “We often catch giant jack crevalle, goliath grouper, cobia, redfish, black drum and flounder out there, along with the snook. That’s plenty of species that we see both inshore and offshore.”