Nongame Freshwater Fishing Regulations

General Information

Nongame fish may be taken with any lawful nongame fishing device. Nongame fish may also be taken with hook and line. A fisherman may only use four rods and reels. A fisherman fishing from a boat may use an unlimited number of rods and reels if all persons in the boat 16 years and older have valid fishing licenses.

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:

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.

Commercial Fishing

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:

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 reach of the Santee, Congaree and Wateree Rivers per person per day. There is no possession limit. However, effective April 1, 2015 there will be a 25 fish possession limit and only 2 fish larger than 32 inches may be taken on Lakes Marion and Moultrie and the upper reach of the Santee River. Also effective April 1, 2015, there will be no possession limit and only 2 fish larger than 32 inches may be taken on the Congaree and Wateree Rivers.

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 can be harvested by skimbow net February-April. 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.

It is unlawful to possess saltwater or freshwater game fish or fishing tackle capable of taking saltwater or freshwater game fish while taking or attempting to take shad or herring with gill nets.

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.

It is unlawful to take shad by hook and line or by skimbow net while operating or possessing commercial fishing equipment for taking shad or herring.

Markers and Identification on Nongame Devices

Trotlines, traps, eel pots, gill nets, and hoop nets must be marked with a white floating marker not less than a capacity of one quart and not more than a capacity of one gallon and must be made of solid, buoyant material that does not sink if punctured or cracked. A floating marker must be constructed of plastic, PVC spongex, plastic foam, or cork. A hollow buoy or float, including plastic, metal, or glass bottles or jugs, must not be used, except that a manufactured buoy or float specifically designed for use with nongame fishing devices may be hollow if constructed of heavy duty plastic material and approved by the department. The owner's name and department customer identification number must be legible on each of the white floating marker. Both commercial and recreational fishermen shall comply with provisions of this title pertaining to the marking and use of a nongame fishing device. A trotline must be marked on both ends.

A commercial trotline must be marked at intervals of every fifty hooks. A commercial trotline which uses fifty or fewer hooks must be marked at intervals of twenty-five hooks. A recreational trotline must be marked at intervals of every twenty-five hooks. Each interval float must be 'International Orange' in color.


No game fish (except bream, excluding redbreast, 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, excluding redbreast, cut into two or more equal parts), shrimp, grapes or meat scraps (which may not include insects, worms and other invertebrates).

No game fish may be used as bait to catch fish recreationally except for bream (other than redbreast). Trout may be used as bait only on Lakes Hartwell, Russell, Thurmond, Tugaloo, Yonah, Stevens Creek Reservoir and the Savannah River. When using game fish as bait to catch fish recreationally they must be included in the daily creel limit.

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.

Except for bait lost while fishing, it is unlawful to intentionally release any aquatic species, including bait, regardless of the stage of its life cycle, into the waters of this State without a permit from the SCDNR.

It is unlawful to use any nonindigenous fish as bait that is not already established in the water body being fished except the following minnows: fathead minnows, golden shiners, and goldfish, including 'black salties'.

Prohibited Areas

No nongame fishing devices of any kind may be used in SCDNR-managed lakes.

Prohibited Practices

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.

Nongame Methods and Devices