The nearshore waters are the zone from the surf out a short range, always in sight of land. Though narrow, the nearshore zone is dynamic, as its waters fall under the influence of a variety of forces including freshwater outflows, tidal changes and offshore currents. In marine biology, nearshore waters are associated with the tidal zone, where the current system is governed by waves and tides, and the littoral zone—that range of ocean where sunlight can reach the sea floor.
For anglers, influences on nearshore fishing always include tides, outflows from nearby bays and estuaries and freshwater outflows from nearby rivers. As tidal forces pull out nutrient-rich inshore waters to the nearshore zone and rivers push into oceans, the nearshore zone is rife with life and constantly in flux. Nearshore color changes develop where outflows meet ocean currents, and baits and predators set up shop along that watery structure line. At times, offshore currents push close or even into the nearshore zone, bringing waters of a different quality, pelagic visitors, and sometimes dramatic temperature changes, like thermoclines.
The beach topography of bars and troughs and a beach’s contour as it slopes steeply or shallowly as it descends in depth also play a prominent role in anglers’ approach to many nearshore species in these waters. Natural ledges and reefs and nearshore wrecks that dot the coastal waters are habitat for countless species and offer prime destinations for anglers and divers.
Nearshore waters not only see an exchange between inshore and offshore waters, but they see an ever-changing mix of inshore and offshore species who visit them on their migratory and feeding paths—in addition to their resident species. In many locations around the coasts, inshore species like seatrout, redfish, snook and flounder all spend significant amounts of their lives in the nearshore zone, as do coastal pelagics like kingfish and cobia. In other locations, it’s possible to catch sailfish and dolphin in nearshore waters when ocean conditions are right.