2018 - 2019 Saltwater Fishing Regulations

Update to Red Drum Regulations (effective July 1, 2018)

Red Drum

The South Carolina General Assembly has passed a new law intended to reverse Red Drum overfishing. The lowered bag limit allows two fish per person per day and no more than six fish per boat per day. The previous catch limit was three fish per person per day, with no boat limit. The slot limit (15-23 inches) remains unchanged.

Slot Limit:

  • 15-23 inches (total length)

Bag Limit:

  • 2 per person per day, and no more than 6 per boat per day

Learn More About Red Drum

General Information

The following laws pertain to recreational saltwater fishing, shrimping, crabbing and shellfishing. Individuals (age 16 and older) harvesting marine resources, including finfish, oysters, clams, shrimp and crab must purchase an annual, temporary or 3 Year Saltwater Recreational Fishing License - unless fishing on a licensed public fishing pier; fishing on a licensed charter vessel while under hire; using 3 or fewer drop nets, 3 or fewer fold up traps, or 3 or fewer handlines with no hooks and a single bait per line (chicken necking); or shrimp baiting (which requires a shrimp baiting license).

Fishing piers and chartered vessels charging a fee for fishing must purchase an annual Public Fishing Pier or Charter Vessel license, respectively. Applications for Public Fishing Pier and Charter Vessel Licenses are available from the SCDNR office in Charleston.

Any person engaged in selling any fish or fishery product, including bait harvested in SC state waters, must first obtain the appropriate license. Regulations concerning commercial saltwater fishing are provided with commercial licenses and are available through the Marine Resources Division at the address below.

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.

For more information, contact:
SCDNR Licensing
P.O. Box 12559
Charleston, SC 29422
Phone: 843-953-9301

For federal fishery limits and regulations, contact:
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council
4055 Faber Place Drive, Suite 201
North Charleston, SC 29405,

To learn about the projects and programs that received support from the Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Program this fiscal year visit http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov.

Saltwater Fishing Methods & Devices

How do I purchase a Saltwater Recreational Fishing License?

Bush Lines/Pole Lines


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.


Recreational fisherman may not use more than ten bush or pole lines with single hooks or baits.

Hook and Line


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required. Federal Highly Migratory Species Permit required when fishing for tuna, billfish, swordfish, and sharks in federal waters. The same federal permit is also required for possession of these species in state waters, with the exception of sharks.


Gigging (Gig, Spear, & Bow & Arrow)


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.


Cast Nets (Other than Shrimp Baiting)


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.

Seines & Gill Nets (Anchor, Set, Stake & Drift Nets)


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License and Gill Net Equipment License required. For more information on equipment licenses call 843-953-9311.


No closed season in saltwater (except shad, sturgeon and herring).


Trotlines (Long lines)


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License and Trotline Equipment License required. For more information on equipment licenses call 843-953-9311.


Special Information

Special Management Zones

The following Artificial Reefs have been declared "Special Management Zones" and are protected by federal regulations: BP-25, Beaufort 45, Betsy Ross, Bill Perry, C.J. Davidson, Cape Romain, Capers, Charleston 60, Comanche, Eagles Nest, Edisto 40, Edisto 60, Edisto Offshore, Fripp Island, Georgetown, Greenville, Hilton Head, Hunting Island, Kiawah, Little River Offshore, North Inlet, Paradise, Pawleys Island, Ten Mile, Vermilion, Wayne Upchurch, Will Goldfinch and Y-73. Fishing may be conducted only with handheld hook and line gear and spearfishing gear (excluding powerheads). The use of fish traps, longlines, gill nets and trawls is prohibited. Powerheads (bangsticks) are prohibited except for safety purposes. It is unlawful to possess, land or sell any species of fish taken with a bangstick (reef and non-reef areas). The harvest and possession of snapper grouper and coastal migratory pelagic species by commercial and recreational fishermen will be limited to the recreational bag limit within the Special Management Zones.

Unlawful to Sell Gamefish & Billfish

The following species have been declared gamefish and native caught fish may not be sold: cobia, red drum (channel bass), spotted seatrout, striped bass and tarpon. The purchase, barter, trade, or sale of billfish, including marlin, sailfish and spearfish, is unlawful regardless of where taken or landed.

Prohibited Practices

Marine Protected Areas (MPA's)

Four MPA's (Snowy Grouper Wreck, Northern SC, Edisto, and Charleston Deep Artificial Reef) are located off of the SC coast. Fishing or possession (unless gear is appropriately stored) of snapper grouper species and shark bottom longlining is prohibited in these areas. For locations and more details on these MPAs, please visit safmc.net or call 843-571-4366.

The 2018-2019 Saltwater Regulations are also available for download in Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) format.

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