What are Aquatic Invasive Species?

  • Non-native organisms that lack natural predators or disease that help keep their growth in check. These species typically reproduce rapidly and negatively impact waterways and native aquatic organisms.

South Carolina's Aquatic Invasive Species Laws


South Carolina law strictly regulates the management of aquatic invasive species to protect native ecosystems. Violations related to the spread, possession, and release of nuisance aquatic species are subject to significant penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Key Regulations

Spreading Nuisance Aquatic Weeds

  • Penalty: Up to $500 fine and/or imprisonment.
  • Scope: Applies to both intentional and unintentional spreading of nuisance aquatic weeds.

Possession and Release of Invasive Plants

  • Prohibited Plants: Includes hydrilla, water hyacinth, water lettuce, giant Salvinia, and others on state or federal Noxious Weed Lists.
  • Penalty: Offenders may face fines and/or imprisonment.

Aquatic Species Release

  • Regulation: Intentional release of any aquatic species without a department permit is unlawful, except for bait lost incidental to fishing or fish released back into their original waters.
  • Permissible Bait: Nonindigenous fish used as bait must be already established in the water body being fished, with exceptions for fathead minnows, golden shiners, and goldfish (including 'black salties').
  • Penalty: A minimum fine of $500 and/or 30 days in jail upon conviction.

Prohibited Species

  • List of Prohibited Species: Includes carnero or candiru catfish, freshwater electric eel, white amur or grass carp, walking catfish, piranha, stickleback, and others.
  • Special Import Permits: SCDNR may issue permits for research and education purposes only.
  • Penalty: Violations result in a minimum fine of $500 and/or 30 days in jail.

Grass Carp Regulations

  • Protection: It is illegal to harm, take, or kill grass carp from public waters. Caught grass carp must be immediately returned to the water.
  • Sterile Grass Carp: Can only be sold, purchased, or possessed under a SCDNR permit.
  • Penalty: Violating these regulations may lead to a minimum fine of $500 and/or 30 days in jail.

Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species: A Guide for Anglers and Boaters


Aquatic invasive species pose significant threats to waterways, impacting native species, habitat, and ecosystem balance. As anglers and boaters, you play a crucial role in preventing the spread of these invasive species. Here are practical steps you can take:

Cleaning Your Equipment

  • Inspect and Clean: Before leaving any water body, remove all visible mud, sand, plants, or plant fragments from boats, gear, and clothing.
  • Pressure Wash: If moving your boat between different water bodies, use a pressure washer to clean your boat and trailer, focusing on all hard-to-reach areas.
  • Dry Everything: Ensure your motor, live well, boat hull, gear, and clothing are completely drained of water.

Handling Bait and Waste Properly

  • Bait Bucket: Never dump your bait bucket in the water. Dispose of live bait in trash receptacles or a compost heap to avoid introducing diseases.
  • Shrimp and Oyster Shells: Dispose of shrimp parts and oyster shells in the trash, not the water, to prevent disease spread. Recycle oyster shells at a local facility if available.

Cleaning Wading Gear

  • Drying Method: Allow gear to dry completely and remain dry for 5 days before reuse.
  • Chemical Solutions: Clean gear with a 3% bleach solution, a 100% vinegar solution, or a 1% salt solution for 20 minutes. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.

Pet Care

  • After Swim Care: Rinse, towel dry, and brush pets thoroughly after they've been in water to remove potential invasive species.

General Best Practices

  • Never Release: Do not introduce plants, fish, or animals into water bodies unless they originated from that specific location.

The Impact of Your Actions

Taking these preventive measures seriously helps protect water resources from the detrimental effects of invasive species. It not only conserves biodiversity and maintains ecosystem health but also mitigates the economic costs associated with controlling invasive species outbreaks. Your commitment to these practices ensures the longevity and vitality of aquatic environments for future generations of anglers and water enthusiasts.

South Carolina Aquatic Invasive Plants & Animals

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.