Skip to main content
South Carolina



Freshwater Game Fishing Regulations

Freshwater Game Fish

Freshwater game fish are: Bream: bluegill, flier, green sunfish, pumpkinseed, redbreast, redear (shellcracker), spotted sunfish, warmouth; Black Bass: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, redeye bass (Bartrams) and any other species of the genus Micropterus; striped bass or rockfish; white bass; hybrid striped bass; white crappie; black crappie; Trout: rainbow, brown, brook and their hybrids; chain pickerel (jackfish); redfin pickerel; sauger, walleye and yellow perch.

Methods and Devices

  • Game fish may be caught with only hook and line, pole, artificial pole, or rod and reel. Not more than 4 of these devices may be used by any fishermen at the same time, except when fishing in a boat. An unlimited number of lawful fishing devices may be used if all persons in the boat sixteen years and older have valid fishing licenses.
  • Cast nets and landing nets for catching nongame bait fish may be in possession while fishing for game fish.
  • No game fish may be used as bait to catch fish recreationally except for bream (excluding 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.


No closed freshwater game fish season except in the following areas:

  • Striped bass have exceptions, see Freshwater Fish Size & Possession Limits.
  • All watercraft and fishing are prohibited Nov. 1 through Feb. 28 on Cantey Bay, Black Bottom and Savannah Branch in Lake Marion.
  • Hatchery WMA on Lake Moultrie is closed to fishing each Saturday until 12:00 noon and all day the last Saturday of the waterfowl season.
  • Potato Creek Hatchery Waterfowl Area is closed to public access and fishing one week prior to and two weeks after the Federal Waterfowl Season.

Selling and Importing

  • No freshwater game fish may be sold in this state except by a SCDNR permitted aquaculturist, a SCDNR wholesale aquaculture licensee, a SCDNR aquaculture game fish retail licensee or a private pond owner selling less than $2,500 in product annually.
  • It is illegal to possess, import or sell any fish species that is not native to SC waters without a SCDNR permit.
  • Sterile grass carp may only be sold, purchased or possessed under a SCDNR permit.

Prohibited Practices

  • Game or nongame fish may not be taken by explosives, electrical devices, poison or similar means.
  • Except for bait lost while fishing and fish released back to waters where they were caught, 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 SCDNR.
  • Native freshwater mussels cannot be taken without a permit from SCDNR, except for Asian clams also known as Corbicula. Contact the Freshwater Fisheries Section at 803-734-3891 for a permit.
  • It is unlawful to take, harm, or kill grass carp from public waters. Any grass carp taken must be returned immediately to the water from which it was taken.
  • 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’.
  • Retaining blue crabs caught in the freshwater of the state is prohibited; any blue crabs caught must be returned to the water immediately.
  • Non-game devices are not allowed in Game Zone 1.

Free Fishing Days

Memorial Day, May 27, 2024 & July 4, 2024

(For residents in freshwater only, as specified in S.C. Code Section 50-9-730.)