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Size & Catch Limits

Hunting Regulations Icon South Carolina Hunting & Fishing

TL=Total Length, FL=Fork Length.

AIW=Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway; State Waters extend from the saltwater-freshwater dividing line to the 3-mile limit. Federal Waters extend from the 3-mile limit to 200 miles offshore (international waters).

Up to date fishing regulations can be found on the SCDNR website at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/regs/saltwaterfish.html.

All species in this section must be landed with head and tail intact.

An operator or crew member onboard a for-hire or commercial vessel must have a valid Operator Card when underway fishing for Dolphin/Wahoo.

These species are also managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) in federal waters. Regulations may change. Please contact the SAFMC at 843-571-4366 or www.safmc.net to get the most up to date regulations on these species.

The harvest and possession of coastal migratory pelagic species by commercial and recreational fishermen will be limited to the recreational bag limit within the Special Management Zones. See “Special Information” for information on SMZs.

Finfish: Inshore & Offshore

Species

Closed Season

Bag Limit

Size Limit

Restrictions

Inshore Finfish

American Shad No closed season for recreational hook & line harvest; For all other gears, seasons as for commercial harvest. 10 shad per person per day except in Santee River and Rediversion Canal (20 per person per day)
Herring 1 US bushel of herring per person per day
Black Drum 5 per person per day 14-inch to 27-inch TL
Bluefish 15 per person per day
Flounders (Southern, Summer & Gulf) 10 per person per day not to exceed 20 per boat per day 15-inch TL
  • Bag limits apply to hook and line or gig.
Red Drum May not be harvested by gig Dec. – Feb. 3 per person per day (state waters)

0 per person per day (federal waters)

15-inch to

23-inch TL

  • May only be taken by rod & reel and gig.
  • May not be harvested from federal waters.
Saltwater Catfishes (Hardhead & gafftopsail catfishes) Possession prohibited Possession prohibited
  • If caught must be released immediately.
Sheepshead 10 per person per day not to exceed 30 per boat per day 14-inch TL
Spotted Seatrout May not be harvested by gig Dec. – Feb. 10 per person per day 14-inch TL
  • May only be taken by rod & reel and gig.
Striped Bass Possession prohibited:
June 1 – Sept. 30 except in lower reach of the Savannah River (2 per person per day year round.)
Possession prohibited: June 1 – Sept. 30;

3 fish per person per day: Oct. 1 – May 31 except in lower reach of the Savannah River (2 per person per day year round.)

26 inch TL except in lower reach of the Savannah River (27 inch TL.)
  • May only be taken by rod & reel.
Hybrid Bass, White Bass, & Combinations In lower reach of the Savannah River: 2 per person per day

All other saltwaters: no bag limit

In the lower reach of the Savannah River: 27 inch TL

All other saltwaters: no size limit

Tarpon 1 per person per day 77-inch FL
  • May only be taken by rod & reel.
Tripletail No associated regulations
Weakfish 1 per person per day 12-inch TL
Atlantic Croaker, Spot, Whiting 50 per person per day aggregate bag limit
  • Bag limit applies to hook and line only.

Offshore Finfish

Cobia May 1 to May 31 in state waters south of 032° 31.0 N latitude (Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island) In federal and all other state waters, closed when Annual Catch Limit (ACL) is met 1 per person per day and no more than 3 per boat per day (In state waters south of 032° 31.0 N latitude (Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island) 2 per person per day (Federal waters and all other SC state waters) 33-inch FL
  • For-hire vessels must have a Coastal Migratory Pelagics permit to fish for this species in federal waters.
  • In state waters may only be taken by rod & reel and gig.
Dolphin 10 per person per day not to exceed 60 per boat per day.

Headboats have no boat limit

20-inch FL
  • For-hire vessels must have a Dolphin Wahoo permit to fish for this species in federal waters.
  • Sale of recreational catch is prohibited.
King Mackerel 3 per person per day 24-inch FL
  • For-hire vessels must have a Coastal Migratory Pelagics permit to fish for this species in federal waters.
Spanish Mackerel 15 per person per day 12-inch FL
  • For-hire vessels must have a Coastal Migratory Pelagics permit to fish for this species in federal waters.
Wahoo 2 per person per day
  • For-hire vessels must have a Dolphin Wahoo permit to fish for this species in federal waters.
  • Sale of recreational catch is prohibited.

Snapper Grouper Complex

Many of these species are managed under annual catch limits. Seasons may be closed when catch limits are met. Visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov for the latest information on the status of annual catch limits.

These species are also managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) in federal waters. Regulations may change. Please contact the SAFMC at 843-571-4366 or www.safmc.net to get the most up to date regulations on these species.

Possession of a dehooking device is required when fishing for snapper grouper species. Non-stainless circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits for snapper grouper species.

Sale of snapper grouper under the recreational bag limit is prohibited. For-hire vessels must have a Snapper Grouper permit to fish for these species in federal waters.

The harvest and possession of snapper grouper species by commercial and recreational fishermen will be limited to the recreational bag limit within the Special Management Zones. See “Special Information” for information on SMZs.

Species

Closed Season

Bag Limit

Size Limit

Restrictions

Greater Amberjack 1 per person per day 28-inch FL
  • In April, for-hire vessels are limited to
    1 per person/day or
    1 per person/trip.
Hogfish 12-inch FL
Spadefish No more than 20 per person per day in aggregate with snapper grouper complex species
Wreckfish Closed:
Jan. 1 – June 30 and Sept. 1 – Dec. 31
1 per vessel per day

Seabass

Black Seabass In federal waters, closed when Annual Catch Limit (ACL) is met 7 per person per day 13-inch TL

Porgies and Snappers

Red Porgy 3 per person per day 14-inch TL
Vermilion Snapper Open year round 5 per person per day; excluded from 10 snapper per person per day limit 12-inch TL
Red Snapper Possession prohibited Possession prohibited
Lane Snapper 10 per person per day from this group 8-inch TL
Black, Blackfin, Cubera, Dog, Yellowtail, Gray, Mahogany, Schoolmaster 12-inch TL
Silk and Queen Snapper 12-inch TL
Mutton Snapper 16-inch TL

Grouper and Tilefish

Gag & Black Grouper Closed:
Jan. 1 – Apr. 30
Included in the 3 grouper aggregate daily bag limit; Maximum of 1 gag or black grouper (but not both) per person/day 24-inch TL
Scamp, Red, Yellowfin, & Yellowmouth Groupers Closed:
Jan. 1 – Apr. 30
Included in the 3 grouper aggregate
daily bag limit
20-inch TL
Golden Tilefish, Blueline Tilefish, and Sand Tilefish Blueline Tilefish closed Sept. – Apr. Included in 3 grouper bag limit; Blueline tilefish – 3 per person per day (May-August only); Golden tilefish – 1 fish per person per day
Misty & Yellowedge Grouper Included in the 3 grouper aggregate daily bag limit
Coney, Graysby, Red Hind & Rock Hind Closed:
Jan. 1 – Apr. 30
Included in the 3 grouper aggregate daily bag limit
Snowy Grouper Sept. – Apr. Included in the 3 grouper aggregate daily bag limit; Only 1 fish per VESSEL per day (May – August only)
Warsaw and
Speckled Hind
Possession prohibited Possession prohibited
Nassau & Goliath Grouper Possession prohibited Possession prohibited
  • If caught must be released by cutting the line and not removing the fish from the water.

All Other Snapper Grouper Complex Species

Including but not limited to: Lesser Amberjack; Cottonwick; White Grunt; Scup; Almaco & Bar Jacks; Margate; Whitebone, Knobbed, Jolthead, Saucereye & Longspine Porgies; Banded Rudderfish; Sailors Choice; Bank Seabass; Rock Seabass; Ocean Triggerfish 20 per person per day aggregate bag limit
  • Bluerunners and Tomtates are excluded from the bag limit.
Gray Triggerfish Included in 20 per person per day aggregate bag limit 12-inch FL

Billfish & Atlantic Tunas

Federal Highly Migratory Species Permit required to fish for these species. All billfish to be released may not be removed from the water. All recreationally caught Atlantic billfish landed must be reported to NMFS within 24 hours of landing at the dock. Anglers can report by calling 1-800-894-5528 or by visiting https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/. Recreationally caught billfish may not be sold.

Species

Closed Season

Bag Limit

Size Limit

Restrictions

Billfish

Blue Marlin 99-inch FL from lower jaw
  • May only be taken by rod & reel.
White Marlin 66-inch FL from lower jaw
  • May only be taken by rod & reel.
Sailfish 63-inch FL from lower jaw
  • May only be taken by rod & reel.
Swordfish 1 per person per day not to exceed
4 per vessel per trip
47-inch FL from lower jaw
  • May only be taken by rod & reel and handlines. Handlines must be attached to, or remain in contact with, the vessel at all times.
  • See https://hmspermits.noaa.gov for for-hire vessel bag limits.
Spearfish
(longbill and roundscale)
Possession prohibited Possession prohibited
  • If caught fish must be released immediately.

Atlantic Tunas

Federal Highly Migratory Species Permit required to fish for these species except for the Other Tunas. Check current federal regulations by calling 1-888-USA-TUNA (1-888-872-8862) or checking https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/.
Albacore, Skipjack No associated regulations.
Bigeye Tuna 27-inch curved FL
Bluefin Tuna 1 per vessel per day per trip 27-inch to 73-inch curved FL
  • See https://hmspermits.noaa.gov for for-hire vessel bag and size limits.
  • All recreationally caught Atlantic billfish and Bluefin tuna landed must be reported to NMFS within 24 hours of landing at the dock.
Yellowfin Tuna 3 per person per day per trip 27-inch curved FL
Other tunas: Blackfin, Bonita, and Little tunny No associated regulations.

Sharks

Federal Highly Migratory Species Permit required in federal waters. All sharks must be landed with fins, head and tail naturally attached. Recreational anglers may only catch sharks using a rod & reel or handline. All other gears prohibited. Check current federal regulations and find a shark identification guide by visiting http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/compliance/regulations/index.html.

Species

Closed Season

Bag Limit

Size Limit

Restrictions

Dogfish (spiny & smooth) No associated regulations.
Atlantic Sharpnose 1 per person per day
Bonnethead 1 per person per day
Blacknose, Blacktip, Blue, Bull, Finetooth, Lemon, Shortfin Mako, Nurse, Porbeagle, Spinner, Thresher, Tiger and Oceanic Whitetip Sharks 1 shark per vessel per day from this group 54-inch FL
Great Hammerhead, Scalloped Hammerhead and Smooth Hammerhead Sharks 1 shark per vessel per day from this group 78-inch FL
Atlantic Angel, Basking, Bignose, Dusky, Galapagos, Longfin Mako, Narrowtooth, Night, Caribbean Reef, Sandbar, Sevengill, Caribbean Sharpnose, Silky, Bigeye Sixgill, Sixgill, Smalltail, Bigeye Thresher, Bigeye Sand Tiger, Sand Tiger, Whale and White Sharks Possession prohibited Possession prohibited
  • If caught, sharks from this group must be released immediately.

Crustaceans & Shellfish Regulations

Species

Closed Season

Possession & Size Limit

Restrictions

Crab, Lobster and Shellfish

Blue Crabs Size Limit: 5-inch minimum carapace width (point to point)
  • Females with egg mass (sponge) must be returned to water unharmed immediately.
Stone Crabs Size Limit: Claws must be 2 3/4-inch minimum forearm (propodus)
  • Only crabs with 2 claws can have one removed.
  • Only the larger of the 2 claws may be kept.
  • No claw may be removed from a female with egg mass.
  • It is unlawful to possess any stone crab body live or dead.
Spiny Lobster Possession Limit: 2 per person per day

Size Limit: 3-inch minimum carapace

  • Removal of tail at sea prohibited.
  • No harvest of berried females.
  • No explosives, poisons, spears, or piercing devices other than fishing hooks are allowed.
Oysters Typically closed May 16 – Sept. 30; may be shortened or extended by the SCDNR. Call 843-953-9300 for season dates. Possession Limit: 2 US bushels per person per day from public or state shellfish grounds; No boat, vehicle, or boat/vehicle combination may contain more then 3 personal limits regardless of the number of people on the boat or in the vehicle
  • A person may recreationally harvest shellfish (oysters and/or clams) no more than 2 days per 7 day period.
Clams Typically closed May 16 – Sept. 30; may be shortened or extended by the SCDNR. Call 843-953-9300 for season dates. Possession Limit: 1/2 US bushel per person per day from public or state shellfish grounds; No boat, vehicle, or boat/vehicle combination may contain more then 3 personal limits regardless of the number of people on the boat or in the vehicle.
Size Limit: 1-inch minimum thickness
  • A person may recreationally harvest shellfish (oysters and/or clams) no more than 2 days per 7 day period.

Shrimp

Taking Shrimp Without Bait Closed: Dec. 16 – Apr. 30 48 quarts whole or 29 quarts headed per day (sunrise to sunrise) per boat, per person if no boat is used, or per seining party
  • 12 dozen dead or live shrimp allowed per boat during closed season.
  • See Crustacean and Shellfish Methods and Devices for Shrimp Seine Gear Restrictions (see above).
Shrimp Baiting 2017 Shrimp baiting season Sept. 8 (Noon) – Nov. 7 (Noon) 48 quarts whole or 29 quarts headed per day (sunrise to sunrise) per set of poles
  • Participants must have a shrimp baiting license.
  • License holders, while shrimping from a boat, may be assisted by a resident who is not required to have a shrimp baiting license.
  • Shrimp caught over bait cannot be sold.
  • No more than 10 poles can be used per license per day. Poles must be marked with reflective tape and may not exceed 1-inch in diameter and each pole must have a numbered tag attached which corresponds with the shrimp baiting license.
  • No more than 10 poles can be used per boat.
  • All poles of a licensed set must be within 100 linear yards of each other and sets of poles must be at least 25 yards apart. Poles may not be set within 50 yards of any dock, public landing or boat ramp. Unattended poles will be confiscated.
  • Owners of private docks or persons with written permission may bait from those docks once properly licensed and with numbered tag displayed.
  • Shrimp pots or traps are prohibited.
  • Cast nets used for taking shrimp over bait must have a minimum mesh size of 1/2-inch square (1-inch stretch).
  • Individuals who may NOT obtain a shrimp baiting license are: 1) owners or officers of a corporation which owns a vessel specified on a trawl license; 2) masters of a vessel specified on a trawl license; 3) licensed to use a channel net; 4) licensed to use a cast net for a commercial purpose; 5) licensed as a wholesale seafood dealer.

Crustacean & Shellfish Methods & Devices

When fishing for crustaceans or shellfish, a Saltwater Recreational Fishing License is required — unless you are 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).

Crab Pots

Permits/Licenses

Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.

Restrictions

  • Licensee can fish no more than two pots recreationally. A Commercial Saltwater Fishing License, Vessel Decal, and Gear license are required for over two pots.
  • If unattended each pot float must bear the name and address or license number of owner.
  • No crab pot shall be left unattended in coastal waters more than 5 days.
  • No crab trap or pot may be set within 200 yards of a public boat landing or launching area or set so as to be left dry at low tide.
  • A float attached to a crab pot or trap must be made of solid, buoyant material which does not sink upon being punctured or cracked. The floats must be constructed of plastic, PVC Spongex, plastic foam, or cork. The primary float for a recreational pot or trap must be yellow in color and at least ten inches in length if rectangular, cylindrical, or conical and at least five inches in diameter or width. Round or spherical floats must be at least six inches in diameter. Buoy lines for crab pots must be made of nonfloating material.

Shellfish
(Oysters, Clams, Mussels, Whelks, and other Mollusks)

Permits/Licenses

Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.

Season

Typically open Oct. 1 through May 15 (1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.) Call 843-953-9300 for season dates.

Restrictions

  • Shellfish may be harvested recreationally from State shellfish grounds and Public shellfish grounds. Public and State shellfish grounds are marked with signs. Recreational harvesting is allowed on culture permit grounds (formerly leases), but only when the harvester has in possession written permission from the culture permit holder. License must be in possession while harvesting.

Maps of areas where shellfish may be gathered in season for recreation may be found on the web at www.dnr.sc.gov, by calling 843-953-9854 or by writing Marine Resources at PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422.

Shrimp Seines

Permits/Licenses

Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.

Restrictions

  • Maximum length of shrimp seine 40 feet, maximum depth 6 feet, minimum mesh size, 1/2 inch square (1 inch stretch), maximum mesh size 7/8 inch square (1.75 inch stretch).
  • Tail bags or pockets are not allowed on seines when pulled by hand.
  • Staked seines are considered commercial channel net devices; allowances and restrictions are provided with the purchase of a commercial license.

Trawling

Permits/Licenses

Commercial Saltwater Fishing License, Vessel Decal and Gear license required.

Restrictions

  • Trawling for personal use is restricted to the same license requirements, areas and seasons as commercial trawling. This information is provided with the license.

Shell Recycling

Oyster shells are collected throughout the coastal area and reused for maintenance of public grounds. Call 843-953-9300 for shell drop-off site locations, or visit
www.saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html for detailed maps of locations.

Guidelines for
Sea Turtle Protection

If you hook or entangle a sea turtle while fishing, contact South Carolina DNR Hotline: 1-800-922-5431.

  • Keep hands away from turtle’s mouth and flippers.
  • Do not lift the turtle by the hook or by pulling on the line.
  • Safely land the turtle using a net or by walking it to shore.
  • Leave the hook in place with one foot of line, as removing it can cause more damage.
  • Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight and cover with damp towel.
  • Use non-stainless, barbless hooks when possible.

If circumstances don’t permit you to hold the animal and contact DNR, cut the line as short as possible and release the turtle.

Measuring a Fish

How to Properly Measure a Saltwater Fish

TL=total length measure: From the closed mouth (snout) to the tip of the tail fin when pinched together. It is a straight line measure, not over the curvature of the body. FL=fork length measure: From the tip of the closed mouth (snout) to the center of the fork of the tail. It is a straight line measure, not over the curvature of the body.