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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 Pot Fishing Regulations

Permit and License Requirements

  • Saltwater Recreational Fishing License: Required for recreational crab pot fishing. This license is a prerequisite for engaging in the harvesting of crabs using pots in saltwater environments.

Restrictions on Crab Pot Usage

  • Number of Pots: Recreational fishers are limited to using no more than two crab pots. Those wishing to operate more than two pots must obtain a Commercial Saltwater Fishing License, along with a Vessel Decal and Gear License, indicating a move from recreational to commercial fishing activities.
  • Identification: Each crab pot float must be clearly marked with the owner's name and address or their license number when the pot is left unattended. This requirement facilitates the accountability and traceability of gear, reducing the risk of lost or abandoned pots.
  • Attendance and Duration: Crab pots cannot be left unattended in coastal waters for more than five consecutive days. This rule aims to prevent ghost fishing—a phenomenon where lost or forgotten gear continues to capture marine life—and to encourage responsible gear management.
  • Placement Restrictions: Setting crab pots within 200 yards of public boat landings or launching areas is prohibited, as is placing pots in locations where they would be exposed during low tide. These measures protect navigational safety and marine habitats.
  • Float Specifications: The float attached to a crab pot must be made from solid, buoyant materials that do not sink if punctured or cracked. Acceptable materials include plastic, PVC Spongex, plastic foam, or cork. For recreational pots, the primary float must be yellow, at least ten inches in length for rectangular, cylindrical, or conical shapes, and a minimum of five inches in diameter or width. Round or spherical floats should be at least six inches in diameter, ensuring visibility and reducing the risk of boat collisions.
  • Buoy Lines: Must be constructed from nonfloating materials to minimize the risk of entanglement with boats and marine life.

Environmental and Conservation Considerations

  • Freshwater Catch: Retaining blue crabs caught in freshwater areas of the state is prohibited. Any blue crabs accidentally caught in freshwater must be immediately released back into the water. This regulation helps to preserve blue crab populations and supports the ecological balance within freshwater ecosystems.

Shellfish Harvesting Regulations

Permit and Licensing

  • Requirement: A Saltwater Recreational Fishing License is mandatory for individuals looking to harvest shellfish recreationally. This license signifies the holder's adherence to the regulations governing the collection of marine resources, including shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels, whelks, and other mollusks.

Seasonal Availability

  • Harvesting Season: The shellfish season generally runs from October 1 through May 15, allowing harvesting from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. This timeframe is designed to protect shellfish populations during critical breeding and spawning periods, ensuring sustainability.
  • Verification: For the most current season dates, it is advised to contact the Marine Resources Division directly at 843-953-9300, ensuring compliance with the latest regulatory changes.

Harvesting Restrictions

  • Designated Areas: Shellfish can be harvested from State shellfish grounds and Public shellfish grounds, which are clearly marked with signage to inform harvesters of authorized locations.
  • Cultural Permit Grounds: While recreational harvesting is permissible on culture permit grounds (formerly known as leases), it requires written permission from the culture permit holder. This stipulation respects the rights of those who cultivate shellfish for commercial and conservation purposes.
  • Licence Display: Harvesters must have their Saltwater Recreational Fishing License in their possession at all times while engaging in shellfish gathering activities, ensuring that they can verify their authorization to harvest if questioned by authorities.

Resources and Information Access

  • Mapping Resources: Maps detailing the areas where shellfish may be harvested recreationally are accessible online at SCDNR Shellfish Maps. These maps provide crucial information on the boundaries of permissible harvesting areas, helping to prevent illegal harvesting and protect sensitive marine habitats.
  • Contact Information: Additional information can be obtained by calling the Marine Resources Division at 843-953-9854 or by writing to Marine Resources at PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422. These channels offer guidance, answer queries, and provide updates on shellfish harvesting regulations and practices.

Shrimp Seining Regulations

Licensing Requirements

  • Mandatory License: Anyone looking to engage in shrimp seining activities must possess a valid Saltwater Recreational Fishing License. This prerequisite underscores the importance of regulated and responsible marine resource harvesting.

Seine Specifications and Usage

  • Seine Size Limits: Regulations stipulate that shrimp seines cannot exceed 40 feet in length and must have a maximum depth of 6 feet. These dimensions are established to balance effective shrimp harvesting with the need to minimize impact on shrimp populations and other marine life.
  • Mesh Size Requirements:
    • Minimum Mesh Size: 1/2 inch square (equivalent to 1 inch stretch). This size aims to prevent the capture of juvenile shrimp and non-target species, supporting sustainable fishing practices.
    • Maximum Mesh Size: 7/8 inch square (equivalent to 1.75 inch stretch). Limiting the mesh size helps in reducing bycatch and ensuring the target species are of a sustainable size for harvesting.
  • Restrictions on Tail Bags: The use of tail bags or pockets on seines, when pulled by hand, is prohibited. This measure is intended to discourage the unintended capture and retention of smaller, non-target marine species.

Commercial Considerations

  • Staked Seines: Seines that are staked are classified under commercial channel net devices. This distinction reflects the larger scale and potential environmental impact of staked seine operations. Individuals or entities operating staked seines must obtain a commercial license, which comes with its own set of allowances and restrictions tailored to commercial fishing activities. This ensures that commercial shrimp seining is conducted in a manner that is sustainable and minimally disruptive to marine ecosystems.

Trawling Regulations Overview

Licensing and Permit Requirements

  • Essential Licensing: Individuals or entities intending to engage in trawling, whether for commercial purposes or personal use, must secure a Commercial Saltwater Fishing License. This foundational requirement ensures that all parties involved in trawling activities are registered and regulated under the same standards.
  • Additional Requirements: Alongside the Commercial Saltwater Fishing License, a Vessel Decal and a Gear License are also mandatory. These additional credentials are designed to certify that both the vessel used for trawling and the gear employed meet specific safety and environmental standards.

Trawling Restrictions

  • Uniform Regulations: The regulations governing trawling for personal use are aligned with those established for commercial trawling. This uniformity is critical for maintaining sustainable fish populations and minimizing the environmental impact of trawling activities.
  • License Inclusions: Detailed information regarding the permitted areas, seasons, and specific restrictions associated with trawling are provided upon the acquisition of the license. This comprehensive approach ensures that license holders are fully informed of their responsibilities and the legal parameters within which they must operate.

Shell Recycling Program

Purpose and Benefits

The shell recycling initiative is a crucial environmental program aimed at collecting oyster shells from the coastal area and repurposing them for the maintenance of public shellfish grounds. This effort not only supports the restoration of oyster habitats but also promotes sustainable fisheries by providing essential structures for oyster larvae to attach and grow. Recycling oyster shells helps to enhance water quality, protect shorelines from erosion, and sustain the biodiversity of marine ecosystems.

How to Participate

  • Drop-off Site Information: Individuals and businesses interested in contributing to the shell recycling program can obtain information about shell drop-off site locations by calling the designated hotline at 843-953-9300. This direct line ensures that contributors can easily find convenient locations to donate their used oyster shells.
  • Online Resources: For those seeking detailed maps and additional information on drop-off sites, the program's webpage at www.saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html offers an accessible and informative resource. The site provides a comprehensive overview of the recycling program, including the locations of shell recycling centers, operating hours, and contact information for further inquiries.

Impact of Recycling

Recycled oyster shells are a vital resource for oyster restoration projects. Once collected, the shells are cleaned and placed back into the marine environment, where they serve as a natural habitat for new oysters to colonize. This cycle of reuse not only contributes to the growth of new oyster populations but also aids in the filtration of coastal waters, as oysters are natural water purifiers.

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Disclaimer:

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.