Freshwater and saltwater fishing provide unique experiences. From the potential catch to the necessary gear, these activities are more different than you might think.

Many popular fishing destinations offer freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. If you only have time for one, making a decision can be challenging. The better option depends on your individual preferences. If you’re torn between freshwater and saltwater fishing, this guide will explain the difference to help you make a decision.

Saltwater Fishing

As the name implies, saltwater fishing happens in saltwater. It’s a popular activity for people who live or vacation near the ocean. You can saltwater fish from a boat, pier or even the beach. Adventurous fishers may even wade into estuaries and bays to fish in brackish water — a mix of saltwater and freshwater. Here are some important factors to consider about saltwater fishing: 

1. Difficulty Level 

Saltwater is home to larger and more aggressive fish than freshwater. Landing a saltwater fish often requires more skill. If you’re new to saltwater fishing, you may have better luck booking a fishing charter with an experienced captain who can help you reel in an impressive catch.

2. Potential Catch

The variety of saltwater fish you can catch depends on your location. Here are just a few species you might encounter off the east coast of Florida:

  • Blacktip shark
  • King salmon
  • Striped bass
  • Pacific halibut
  • Goliath grouper
  • Snapper 
  • Mahi mahi
  • Swordfish
  • Blackfin tuna 

2. Necessary Gear

Catching saltwater fish is nearly impossible without the right equipment. Saltwater fishing gear can withstand strong ocean currents and corrosive seawater. Here’s what you should know:

  • Rods: Saltwater fishing rods are thicker, heavier and more robust than freshwater equipment. They’re built with strong yet flexible graphite or fiberglass to withstand fish that weigh hundreds of pounds. 
  • Reels: The reels for saltwater fishing are also more advanced. Some fishermen even swap out their reels depending on the type of fish they’re trying to catch. Your tackle box should include spinning, trolling, saltwater baitcasting and jigging reels. 
  • Lures: Saltwater lures are larger and heavier-duty but come in fewer variations than freshwater lures.
  • Other equipment: A fishing net and gaff are essentials for pulling large saltwater fish into the boat.

3. Saltwater Fishing Regulations

Another important factor to consider is saltwater fishing regulations. Each coastal state creates its own fishing laws to protect fish populations and prevent people from taking too many at once. These rules allow everyone to enjoy fishing without harming the ecosystem. You can find your state’s saltwater fishing regulations online.

Keeping track of these complex rules can be challenging. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends the Fish Rules App to help you stay up to date on the latest regulations in your location. You could also schedule a fishing charter with an experienced captain who knows the fishing laws by heart.

Freshwater Fishing 

Freshwater fishing happens in lakes, rivers, creeks, streams and ponds that contain freshwater. You can freshwater fish from a boat, bridge or along the bank. Unlike saltwater fishing, which is only available near the coast, people can freshwater fish all across the country. Most people can find a decent freshwater fishing spot within a few hours of their home. Here’s what you should know about freshwater fishing:

1. Difficulty Level 

Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or just getting started, freshwater fishing is fun for the whole family. Freshwater fish tend to be smaller and easier to catch with minimal equipment. However, some species can be challenging to snag, increasing the thrill of the hunt for skilled anglers. 

2. Potential Catch 

Freshwater fish may be smaller, but they’re just as exhilarating to catch. The available species depends on where you choose to fish. In Florida, you may hook one of these freshwater natives

  • Bass
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Perch
  • Trout
  • Flounder
  • Sheepshead
  • Bluegill 
  • Sunfish

3. Necessary Gear 

Freshwater fishing gear is simpler and more affordable. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rod: In freshwater, the risk of corrosion is much lower. A standard steel rod is sufficient, or you can upgrade to graphite or fiberglass. Freshwater rods are typically lighter and easier to handle.
  • Reel: A general-purpose reel is sufficient for most freshwater fishing. They’re smaller, lighter and more cost-effective than specialized saltwater reels.
  • Lure: There are countless freshwater lures to help you attract certain fish. You can also try live freshwater bait like minnows, crickets or the classic worm.
  • Other equipment: It’s easy to snap your line while fishing in shallow water filled with rocks and debris. Stock your tackle box with extra hooks and lures in case you lose one.

4. Freshwater Fishing Regulations

Freshwater ecosystems have their own set of state regulations that fishermen must follow. The laws protect completely different fish species and often require separate licensing. It’s crucial to read and understand these policies beforehand. The Fish Rules App also includes freshwater regulations for Florida, Alabama and Texas. Or, you can always book a fishing charter for the guidance of an experienced captain.

The Difference Between Freshwater and Saltwater Fishing

Salt is not the only factor that distinguishes saltwater from freshwater fishing. There are pros and cons to either activity. Here are the most significant differences between freshwater and saltwater fishing:

1. The Catch

The most obvious difference between freshwater and saltwater fishing is the catch. If you’re hoping to reel in a prized fish, saltwater fishing is the way to go. Freshwater fish are smaller, but you never know what you might find. There’s a diverse ecosystem of fish in rivers, lakes and ponds. Freshwater fishing is exciting and educational, especially when visiting a new area. 

2. The Complexity

Freshwater fishing is a crowd-pleaser, no matter your experience. It’s thrilling for newbies and veteran anglers. Saltwater fishing requires more advanced equipment and fishing experience. It may be too challenging for children and beginners. However, with the help of a professional fisherman, you can enjoy either activity regardless of your skill level.

3. The Experience

Fishing is an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and create memories with your friends and family. Choosing between freshwater or saltwater fishing will significantly impact the experience that you’ll have. There’s nothing more exhilarating than reeling in a 4-foot blacktip shark.

However, some people prefer a more laid-back experience. With freshwater fishing, you can float along the river or hang out by the lake while you wait for a bite on your line. Seeing the toothy grin of a freshwater sheepshead for the first time can be equally thrilling.

Whether you’re fishing from a riverbank or a boat on the ocean, you’re sure to have a great time.

4. The Accessibility

Saltwater is home to some of the most fantastic fish in the world. However, many of these unique creatures are miles from the shore. You can still fish from the beach or a pier, but you’re limited to the fish that lurk in the shallows. To make the most of your saltwater fishing experience, you have to venture out to sea in a specialty boat.

Freshwater fishing is much more accessible. You don’t even have to live near or travel to the ocean. Many different species live in the shallows by the bank. If you’re feeling adventurous, all you need is a kayak or pontoon to explore the depths of lakes and rivers.

5. The Cost

Freshwater fishing is an affordable option if you’re on a tight budget. All you need is a fishing license, rod, hook and bait. Saltwater fishing gear is more complex and made from robust materials that require a considerable investment.

Important Things to Consider 

Whether you choose saltwater or freshwater fishing, you’re sure to have a memorable experience. If you’re still unsure which fishing style is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Where Do You Want to Fish?

Are you looking forward to a day on the water, or would you prefer to stay on land? Riding on a boat for the first time is a memorable experience on its own. Enjoy the exhilaration of sailing on the ocean, or cruise down the river for a relaxing freshwater fishing trip.

Alternatively, if you’re fishing with a large group or young kids, you may be better off fishing from the shore. Freshwater fishing can be just as fun and exciting from dry land.

2. Do You Plan to Eat Your Catch?

From how they look to how they taste, there’s a big difference between saltwater and freshwater fish. If you plan on having your catch for dinner, consider the type of fish you like to eat. If you love all kinds of fish, you’re sure to have a delicious meal either way.

Since they live in saltwater, fish from the ocean have a saltier flavor. Some even say they taste like the sea. Here are some of the most popular saltwater delicacies:

  • Halibut: The firm yet flaky texture and sweet, meaty flavor make halibut one of the most prized saltwater fish. You can poach, bake or blacken halibut. Just be careful not to overcook it. 
  • Flounder: It may look unattractive, but flounder tastes mild, flaky and delicious. Fried flounder is popular, but you can also bake, broil or pan-fry this fish.
  • Snapper: Properly cooked snapper is delicate and moist with a mild sweetness. You can grill, pan-fry, steam, bake or deep-fry it to your liking.
  • Mahi Mahi: This popular fish is known for its distinct flavor. The dense flesh cooks well on the grill and pairs nicely with bold seasoning.

If you’re not a fan of fishy-tasting seafood, consider freshwater fish. They’re not as salty and have a mild flavor profile. Freshwater catch mixes well with many other flavors like zesty mango salsa or tangy tartar sauce. These freshwater fish make great meals:

  • Trout: Fresh trout is tender and delicious. It can taste slightly gamey with a mild sweetness. You can bake, broil, grill or pan-fry your catch. Some people even like it smoked.
  • Salmon: This oily fish has a distinct flavor that many people love. It’s rich, tender and savory. You can bake, grill or pan-fry your fresh catch.
  • Sheepshead: This funny-looking fish has moist flesh with a sweet flavor. It’s excellent grilled, pan-fried, boiled, baked, broiled or deep-fried.

3. How Large Is Your Group?

Are you planning a solo fishing trip or a family affair? Buying saltwater fishing gear for the whole family can be costly. Booking a fishing charter with equipment provided can help cut down on cost, as long as your group is six people or less. You could take the most eager members in your group while the rest of your family enjoys another activity.

Large groups can stick together by freshwater fishing from the shore. The equipment is more affordable and easier to use. Freshwater fishing charters are also an option for smaller groups. 

Fishing in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida

If you’re still unsure which fishing method you prefer, the Indian River Lagoon in Florida offers the best of both worlds. The Indian River Lagoon flows between the barrier islands and mainland of Florida’s eastern coast. The brackish water contains a mixture of saltwater and freshwater that supports thousands of organisms, including 685 species of fish. 

The Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park protects these waters so the ecosystem can thrive. It’s a spawning ground for fish, crabs, shrimp and even sea turtles. People from all over the world come to marvel at the natural wonders that the Indian River Lagoon has to offer. They also come to score a great catch. 

Indian River fishing allows you to create your own experience. You can fish from the shore or take a boat out for near-shore or offshore fishing. No matter where you cast your rod, you have the potential to reel in an impressive haul of fish. Here are some of the top catches on the Indian River:

  • Tarpon
  • Red drum
  • Black drum
  • Jack crevalle
  • Pompano
  • Ladyfish
  • Spotted seatrout
  • Snook
  • Bluefish
  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Flounder
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Tripletail
  • Whiting
  • Permit

While catching a fish isn’t guaranteed, it’s rare to go an entire day without a single bite.

Book Your Fishing Charter With Vero Tackle & Watersports

There’s no better way to experience the Indian River Lagoon than booking a fishing charter expedition. You don’t have to plan a thing! An experienced captain has all the supplies you need and will take you to all of the best fishing spots. With Vero Tackle & Watersports, you’re sure to have a great time, regardless of your fishing skills. We provide the boat, equipment, bait and expertise needed for a successful day on the water. 

Vero Tackle & Watersports allows you to choose your adventure. You have the option of inshore and offshore fishing with the specially trained captain of your choice. Our captains are Coast Guard-licensed and insured, so you have a safe and knowledgeable tour guide who can answer all of your questions about the fish you might encounter. Many of them have years of experience leading a fishing charter in Florida.

Each charter offers a unique experience. Our captains have different boats that accommodate 2-6 people. Most charters are four to six hours long. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even book a three-hour nighttime charter with captain Donovan. For more information, explore our FAQ page, where we’ve answered the most common questions.

No matter which charter you pick, you’re sure to have a memorable Florida fishing experience. Book a fishing charter online today!