Crustacean & Shellfish Methods & Devices

Hunting Regulations Icon South Carolina Hunting & Fishing

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


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.


  • 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.
  • Retaining blue crabs caught in the freshwater of the state is prohibited; any blue crabs caught must be returned to the waters immediately.

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


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.


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.


  • 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.

*A bushel is two 5 gallon buckets filled to a level top. Three personal limits is 6 bushels for oysters and 1.5 bushels for clams.

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

Shrimp Seines


Saltwater Recreational Fishing License required.


  • 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.



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


  • 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.

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.


Guidelines for Sea Turtle Protection

If you hook or entangle a sea turtle while fishing, contact South Carolina DNR Hotline: 1-800-922-5431. Sea Turtle Handling Release Guidelines Quick Reference www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/tagfish/pdf/SeaTurtleHandlingReleaseGuidelines.pdf

  • 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 three 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.