Nongame Freshwater Fishing Regulations
Nongame fishing permits and tags may be purchased from SCDNR only. Applications may be obtained by calling 803-734-3833.
Nongame fishing permits and tags are required, in addition to a valid South Carolina recreational fishing license (also applies to youth under 16), to use the following devices for recreational purposes:
- up to 1 trotlines with not more than 50 hooks,
- 3 to 50 set hooks
- not more than 50 jugs
- up to 2 traps
- 1 hoop net
- 1 gill net no more than 100 yards in length or 3 gill nets, none of which exceed 30 yards in length (This does not apply to shad and herring.)
- up to 2 eel pots
With a valid South Carolina recreational fishing license and no additional tags or permits, archery equipment, cast nets, crayfish traps (5 or less), gigs, hand grabbing, minnow seines, minnow traps, spears and skimbow nets may be used in freshwaters except lakes owned or managed by the DNR to take nongame fish.
This requirement applies to all freshwaters of the state inland of the saltwater-freshwater dividing lines, except privately-owned ponds.
Nongame fishing devices are not allowed in certain waters. The maximum number of devices allowed per area is shown in the Nongame Device Limits by Location Recreational and Nongame Device Limits by Location Commercial.
A tag must be attached to the device for which it was issued, and each permit and tag identification receipt must be in the licensee’s possession while engaging in the activity.
Game fish must be immediately released if caught by net or trap or any other device used for catching nongame fish.
A commercial freshwater fishing license must be in possession to take nongame fish by any method from public waters and sell or offer for sale such nongame fish, and/or fish with the following nongame fishing devices:
- 6 or more crayfish traps
- 3 or more eel pots
- 1 elver fyke net
- 4 or more gill nets (or a total of more than 100 yards of net) (This does not apply to shad and herring.)
- 2 or more hoop nets
- 3 or more traps, or
- 2 or more trotlines or fish trotlines with more than 50 hooks.
Strikers, persons other than the licensed freshwater commercial fishermen, who under immediate supervision assists a licensed commercial freshwater fisherman, but does not use separate nongame fishing devices from the vessel engaged in commercial fishing. A striker is not required to have a commercial freshwater fishing license.
No more than one blue catfish over 36 inches can be taken from Lakes Marion and Moultrie or the upper reaches of the Santee, Congaree and Wateree Rivers per person per day.
To qualify for a resident commercial freshwater fishing license, one must have been a resident of this state for the past 365 consecutive days and furnish proof to the SCDNR.
Shad and Herring (American and hickory shad and blueback herring)
To take shad for recreational purposes by hook and line, cast net, or skim bow net in waters of the state a person must have either a freshwater or saltwater recreational fishing license.
American shad and herring cannot be harvested by skim bow net May-January. Only 10 shad per person per day or 1 US bushel of herring per person per day except in the Santee River (which is 20 shad per person per day) can be harvested. Gill nets are allowed to harvest American shad and herring for commercial use. If fishing gill nets recreationally, one must adhere to the recreational limits.
Commercial fishing for shad and herring in freshwaters, including for sale as bait and by use of gill nets, is regulated under saltwater fisheries laws regardless of location within the state (Sec. 50-5- 1500 and 50-5-1550). Contact the Charleston License office at 843-953-9301 for commercial and gill net information.
Markers and Identification on Nongame Devices
Trotlines, traps, eel pots, gill nets and hoop nets must be marked with a floating marker with a minimum capacity of one quart and a maximum capacity of one gallon or equivalent size and must be made of solid, buoyant material which does not sink if punctured or cracked. The floating markers must be constructed of plastic, PVC Spongex, plastic foam or cork. No hollow buoys or floats including plastic, metal or glass bottles or jugs may be used except manufactured buoys or floats specifically designed for use with nongame fishing devices; these may be hollow if constructed of heavy duty plastic material and approved by the SCDNR. The floating markers must be colored white when used the 1st through the 15th of the month and yellow when used the remainder of the month. The owner’s name and address must be marked clearly on each floating marker.
A commercial trotline must be marked at intervals of every 50 hooks with an international orange float. A recreational trotline must be marked at intervals of every 25 hooks with an international orange float. In both cases, the end marks must conform to the white and yellow marking scheme.
No game fish (except bream cut into two or more equal parts), live bait or any bait other than bait listed below shall be used with trotlines, set hooks and jugs: soap, doughballs, (nongame fish or bream cut into two or more equal parts), shrimp, grapes or meat scraps (which may not include insects, worms and other invertebrates).
- No game fish (except bream cut into two or more equal parts), live bait or any bait other than bait listed below shall be used with trotlines, set hooks and jugs: soap, doughballs, (nongame fish or bream cut into two or more equal parts), shrimp, grapes or meat scraps (which may not include insects, worms and other invertebrates).
- On the Black, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Lumber, Lynches and Waccamaw rivers, live nongame fish and bream may be used on trotlines having not more than 20 hooks with a shank-to-point gap of one and three-sixteenths inches or greater. However, it is unlawful for a person to have in possession more than the lawful creel limit of bream while fishing with nongame devices on these rivers.
Game fish used as bait must be included in daily creel limit, 30 bream per person per day.
There are no restrictions on the type of bait permissible in traps or eel pots except that no game fish or parts thereof shall be used as bait.
No nongame fishing devices of any kind may be used in SCDNR-managed lakes.
Possession or use on the freshwaters of this state of any device or gear designed or used to catch nongame fish not authorized by law is prohibited.
Possession of game fish or tackle designed to catch game fish is prohibited while fishing traps, trotlines, or other nongame fish devices except cast nets.
It is unlawful for any person to tamper with, fish, or use in any manner the nongame fishing device or gear owned and tagged by another person, or to take from any such device or gear, any fish caught thereon. No fishing device shall be used, placed, set or fished so as to create a hazard to boating.
No trotlines, traps or eel pots shall be placed within 200 yards of any permanent man-made structure on Lakes Marion and Moultrie nor placed anywhere in the Diversion Canal connecting Lakes Marion and Moultrie, the Tailrace Canal nor the area known as the Borrow Pit (also known as "Bar Pit") in Clarendon County.
Some devices are not permitted on certain waters.
A single hook and line attached to bushes, limbs, poles, sticks or similar structures.
Permits/Regulations: A permit is required to fish 3 to 50 hooks (50 hook limit). Persons 65 years or older or under age 16 are not required to purchase a Set Hook Permit, but a label with their name, address and age must be attached to each set hook. A fishing license is required. A permit is not required for 2 set hooks with a valid state fishing license.
Hours/Seasons: Must be removed prior to one hour after official sunrise each day and cannot be reattached prior to one hour before official sunset.
A single hook and line attached to a free-floating device with a minimum capacity of one pint and a maximum of one gallon. May not have more than one line.
Permits/Regulations: A permit is required to fish 3 to 50 jugs (50 jug limit). Licensee’s name and address must be clearly marked on each jug. Jug fishing is legal only in Lakes Hartwell, Greenwood, Secession, Richard B. Russell, Thurmond, and Stevens Creek. A permit is not required for 2 jugs with a valid state fishing license. A jug permit is not required for residents assisting jug permit holders.
Hours/Seasons: Must be removed from the water before one hour after official sunrise each day and not replaced prior to one hour before official sunset.
2 or more hooks attached to a line which is rigged horizontally and marked with a white or yellow floating marker (Marking of Nongame Device.) Stainless steel hooks are prohibited statewide. Hooks used in Lakes Marion and Moultrie ONLY must measure 7/16 inch or less between point and shank.
Permits/Regulations: A tag is required for each trotline with up to 50 hooks. Trotlines with more than 50 hooks require a tag for every 50 hooks or less. No trotline shall be attached in any manner to another trotline or to the support or float of another trotline. No trotlines allowed within 100 feet of the mouth of any tributary stream.
Hours/Seasons: Trotlines must be inspected and fish removed at least every 24 hours. From Apr. 1 to Oct. 1, no trotline is permitted in any waters from one hour after official sunrise to one hour before official sunset, unless the trotline is sunk to the bottom or a minimum depth of four feet below the surface. From Oct. 2 to Mar. 31, trotlines may be left in the water 24 hours per day at any depth.
Traps & Eel Pots
A device described below marked with a white or yellow floating marker (Marking of Nongame Devices.)
Trap Type 1: The trap may be made of wire or textile material and be cylindrical in shape of a length not more than 6 feet and a width of not more than 3 feet. The mesh shall not be smaller than 1 inch by 1 inch, and there shall be only one application of exterior wire to the trap. The muzzle shall have one of the following designs: A trap door on the second muzzle or catch muzzle which remains in a closed position and which only opens for the entry of fish into the trap; or constructed of netting so that the opening of the small end of the second muzzle or catch muzzle is held in the shape of a slit and the trap configuration constructed such that as the trap rests on the bottom, the slit shall be oriented horizontally with the greatest vertical opening being no greater than 1 inch.
Trap Type 2: The trap may be made of wood strips or slats and be cylindrical or rectangular in shape. The length shall not exceed 6 feet, and the width or diameter shall not exceed 2 feet. The throat opening of the catch muzzle in a resting position shall not exceed 3 inches measured in any direction. The sides, top and rear of the trap shall have a minimum of one inch opening between the slats to allow for the escape of small catfish. This shall apply only to the last 12 inches of the trap.
Eel pot: Pots no larger than 24 inches by 48 inches and constructed of wire with a mesh size no smaller than 1/2 by 1/2 inch, except for the throat or muzzle and the end opposite the throat or muzzle. The throat opening shall not exceed 2 inches measured in any direction.
Permits/Regulations: A tag is required for each trap or eel pot. A permit is required for the harvest of eels in both freshwater and saltwater. Traps and eel pots may be suspended in water at a depth which does not create a hazard to watercraft. No trap or eel pot shall be placed within 100 feet of the mouth of any tributary stream. No crab pot or trap of like design may be used in the fresh waters of this state.
Hours/Seasons: No closed season.
Nets made of textile netting (no wire) of a mesh size between 1 and 2 inches square enclosing a series of round hoops with two or more muzzle openings made of a netting material. The maximum size net allowed is 16 feet by 5 1/2 feet in diameter.
Permits/Regulations: Hoop nets must rest on the bottom and cannot be placed within 100 feet of the mouth of any tributary stream.
Hours/Seasons: No closed season.
Gill Nets (Not for shad and herring)
Nets must have a stretch mesh size greater than 4 1/2 inches. The maximum length is 100 yards and no net, cable, line or other device used for support of the gill net can extend more than halfway across the stream or body of water. Nets must be marked with a white or yellow floating marker (See Markers and Identification on page 18).
Permits/Regulations: Gill nets shall be placed on a first-come basis, and no net can be placed within 200 yards of another gill net.
Hours/Seasons: The season for taking nongame fish other than shad and herring is Nov. 1 to Mar. 1 (where authorized) on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only. Fishing time begins at 12:01 AM on Wednesday, and ends at midnight on Saturday.
Elver Fyke Net
A net with wings not exceeding 10 feet in length and 14 feet in depth. The distance from throat to cod end does not exceed 20 feet. The maximum bar mesh for any part of the net does not exceed 1/8 inch square.
A hand-operated dip net with the bow constructed of wood or metal with wire or textile netting with a mesh size not greater than 1 ½ inches square. The bow shall not exceed 14 feet in any direction and may be used only from Feb. 1 through Apr. 30 for shad or herring.
Must not be greater than 4 feet in depth by 20 feet in length with a mesh size of not more than 1/4 inch square mesh. It is unlawful to have in possession a minnow seine from 10 PM to official sunrise.
A net having a stretch mesh of not less than 1 inch and not more than 1 1/2 inches which does not exceed 75 feet in length or 6 feet in depth. It shall be unlawful to anchor a seine and leave it unattended.