2018 - 2019 Nongame Freshwater Fishing Regulations

General Information

Freshwater nongame fish are any freshwater fish species not classified as game fish.

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 fishing license and no additional tags or permits, archery equipment, cast nets, crayfish traps (5 or less), gigs, hand grabbing, minnow seines, minnow traps and spears 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.

On Lakes Marion and Moultrie and the upper reach of the Santee River only 1 blue catfish larger than 36 inches may be taken and there is no fish possession limit. On the Congaree and Wateree Rivers there is no possession limit and only 1 fish larger than 36 inches may be taken.

Native freshwater mussels cannot be taken without a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The non-native Asian clams, also known as Corbicula may be taken. Contact the Freshwater Fisheries Section at 803-734-3891 for permit.

Game fish must be immediately released if caught by net or trap or any other device used for catching nongame fish.

Federal law requires passenger for hire service operating on U.S. navigable waters to comply with minimum federal safety and personnel licensing laws and regulations. Vessels that are carrying paying passengers must have a Captain that is USCG Licensed/USCG Vessel Inspected. Please contact USCG for more information 1-888-427-5662.

Shad and Herring (Includes American and hickory shad and blueback herring)

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 are 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.

On Lakes Marion and Moultrie and the upper reach of the Santee River only 2 blue catfish larger than 32 inches may be taken and there is a 25 fish possession limit. On the Congaree and Wateree Rivers there is no possession limit and only 2 fish larger than 32 inches may be taken.

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.

Verification of Lawful Presence in the United States
As required by S.C. Code Section 8-29-10, applicants for a commercial license or permit are required to complete an affidavit entitled "Verification of Lawful Presence in the United States" certifying that the applicant is lawfully in the United States. The affidavit MUST be completed, notarized and returned with the application. If you are a US citizen, the properly filled out affidavit is all that is required. If you are not a US citizen, you will be required to provide documentation, which is subject to verification with the Department of Homeland Security. Specific types of documentation that may be provided can be found on Page 2 of the form, under "Accepted Immigration Documents." Your application for a commercial license or permit will be returned if the affidavit and documentation is not received and notarized. If your license/permit is in a company name the owner/responsible party for the company must complete the affidavit and indicate the business information on the bottom right of the form. The affidavit only needs to be completed once if you are a U.S. Citizen 18 years of age or older, all others will be required to resubmit the affidavit each time an individual applies for a commercial license or permit from the Department.

Markers and Identification on Nongame Devices

Nongame Methods and Devices


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).

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:

There are no restrictions on the type of bait permissible in traps or eel pots except that no gamefish 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'. Except for bream (other than redbreast), no other game fish is allowed to be used as bait, provided, trout are allowed to 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.

Prohibited Areas

No nongame fishing devices of any kind may be used in SCDNR State 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. Nongame fish may not be taken by explosives, electrical devices, poison or similar means.

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 therein. 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 devices, such as set hooks, may not be attached or secured to any vegetation or structure on the Congaree National Park property bordering the Wateree or Congaree Rivers. Rules and regulations concerning the Congaree National Park may be obtained from the National Park Service at 803-776-4396 or at https://www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm.


The boat, motor, fishing gear and fish of any person who is charged with unlawfully fishing, using or having in possession a gill net or hoop net on any freshwater lake or reservoir shall be confiscated.

Any person who tampers with any nongame fishing device with intent to damage or to make it ineffective for the purpose of taking fish shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $200 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days, and for stealing a device or fish caught in the device shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 6 months or both.

Upon the conviction of any commercial freshwater fisherman of illegal possession of game fish or the sale or traffic in game fish, SCDNR shall suspend such person's license or privilege to fish in this state for a period of one year.

Nongame Methods and Devices