It’s almost impossible to fish in Louisiana and not have a blast. Our streams, rivers, marshes, bayous and lakes — not to mention the Gulf of Mexico — are teeming with fish.
Planning is everything, though, especially when it comes to saltwater versus freshwater fishing — the two fishing styles are as different as night and day.
Avoid unpleasant surprises by doing your homework. Here’s everything you need to know about saltwater versus freshwater fishing.
What kind of fish do you want to catch?
If size matters to you, saltwater fishing is hands down your best bet. Saltwater fish are much bigger than the species in our streams and rivers. You might find some smaller redfish and sea trout in freshwater, but those whopping groupers and snappers and yellowfins are saltwater fish.
As for eating your catch, consider the flavor differences and health benefits:
Most saltwater fish — like tuna, red snapper, dolphinfish and wahoo — have a robust, briny, flavor.
Most freshwater fish — like trout, catfish, sac-a-lait and bluegill — have a milder, subtler flavor.
All kinds of fish round out a healthy diet. There is strong evidence that certain species boost heart and brain health; the American Heart Association, for one, recommends at least two servings of fish a week.
That said, freshwater fish contain more vitamin A, folate, calcium, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and monounsaturated fatty acids. Simply put, freshwater fish have a slight edge healthwise.
Don’t forget to consider trip time. Depending on the location and the kind of fish you’re looking for, a charter trip can take anywhere from a few hours to several days.
Offshore saltwater fishing almost always takes longer than inshore saltwater and freshwater fishing.
For offshore saltwater fishing trips, it’s not uncommon to spend an hour or so just traveling to a sweet fishing spot. If there’s one thing offshore fishermen are known for, it’s patience.
Secondly, offshore saltwater fish are harder to catch. They put up a significantly bigger fight. Once Old Blue takes the bait, you could be an hour or more wrestling him into the boat. (That’s no joke. You could.)
You can’t rush offshore saltwater fishing. Plan on six to eight hours at the very minimum.
If you’re still interested in saltwater fishing, but don’t want the major time commitments, inshore or marsh fishing is a good alternative. These trips are typically calmer, and because you’re staying closer to shore, it doesn’t take nearly as long to cast your first line.
Similar to inshore saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing can feature almost immediate gratification. You could land a nice bluegill within minutes of shoving off. You can catch it, take tons of selfies with it, and sauté it in a pan in under four hours.
Also, freshwater trips can be much shorter. They are limited by the day cycles and rapidly changing water temperatures that govern fish-feeding habits, along with requiring less trave time to get to your final fishing spot. These factors make fishing more accessible.
Do you know a lot about fish? Are you in great physical shape? Offshore saltwater fishing will definitely test your knowledge, strength and stamina.
Offshore saltwater fish are notoriously challenging. They’re big and strong, and they don’t like getting caught. An hour-long fight with a swordfish or king mackerel will absolutely wear you out. That’s true for even experienced fishermen. The “call of the sea” is a romantic notion, but it’s not for everybody. The worst place to discover that you’re seasick or creeped out is in the middle of the Gulf.
Inshore saltwater fishing, on the other hand, is typically a bit calmer, but that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. From redfish to flounder, black drum and more, inshore saltwater fish can still put up quite a fight.
Many beginners start with a freshwater or inshore excursion that gives them a chance to literally test the waters before they take on the bigger game and less predictable adventures.
Bigger catches require bigger rods. Saltwater rods and reels are typically thicker and heavier than those used in freshwater fishing. There are even lures specially designed for larger, feistier fish.
Equipment made for saltwater also must stand up to corrosion. Because it’s built to take lots of abuse and last for years, it’s more expensive. The investment will pay off if you do a lot of offshore fishing.
Often, deep offshore fishing charters will furnish gear and tackle for your trip, so that’s one expense you can check off your list. For freshwater charters and saltwater charters closer to shore, you will most likely need to bring your own gear. Check with your captain for charter-specific equipment requirements.
Overall, If you want to occasionally fish for fun, freshwater fishing is more affordable. Bear in mind that while some saltwater gear adapts to freshwater fishing, freshwater gear does not adapt to offshore saltwater fishing very well.
There are pros and cons to both fishing styles.
Freshwater fishing leaves plenty of time for other amusements over a long weekend. It’s a great way to enjoy diverse scenery. It’s more budget-friendly and somewhat safer. Best of all, depending on the type of fish you’re catching, you don’t necessarily have to know what you’re doing.
Saltwater fishing takes longer. It requires skill and specialized equipment. It’s somewhat more expensive. However, there’s potentially a bigger payoff — saltwater fish are awesome.
Like Socrates said, “Know thyself.” If you want a leisurely, restful experience with few surprises, head for fresh water. If adventure, challenge and unpredictability are more your style, opt for salt water.
Whatever fishing experience you choose, you need an experienced charter boat captain to guide you.
Where are the fish? What type of tackle do I need? Which ones are sustainable? What kind of permit do I need? Are there daily catch limits? Where’s the last stop for the restroom?
The experienced charter boat captains at LCBA exist to field questions like these. We’ll help you navigate the waters from your first phone call to your safe return to the pier.
For a custom Louisiana fishing adventure, contact a seasoned pro at LCBA.
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