Freshwater Game Fish in South Carolina

South Carolina's freshwater ecosystems host a diverse range of game fish species, appealing to anglers for their sport and challenge. Here's a comprehensive list of the freshwater game fish found within the state:


  • Bluegill
  • Flier
  • Green Sunfish
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Redbreast
  • Redear (Shellcracker)
  • Spotted Sunfish
  • Warmouth

Black Bass

  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass
  • Redeye Bass (Bartrams)

Note: Includes any other species within the genus Micropterus.

Other Game Fish

  • Striped Bass (Rockfish)
  • White Bass
  • Hybrid Striped Bass
  • White Crappie
  • Black Crappie


  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
    Note: Includes hybrids of these trout species.

Additional Species

  • Chain Pickerel (Jackfish)
  • Redfin Pickerel
  • Sauger
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Fishing Methods and Devices Regulations

In South Carolina, regulations govern the methods and devices allowed for catching game fish. Here are the key guidelines anglers must adhere to:

Authorized Fishing Devices

  • Game fish may only be caught using:
    • Hook and Line
    • Pole
    • Artificial Pole
    • Rod and Reel
  • A maximum of four of these devices are permitted for use by a single fisherman at any given time, except when fishing from a boat.
  • If all individuals aged sixteen and older in a boat possess valid fishing licenses, an unlimited number of lawful fishing devices may be utilized.

Permissible Nets

  • Anglers are allowed to possess cast nets and landing nets specifically for capturing nongame bait fish while fishing for game fish.

Restrictions on Bait Usage

  • Game fish may not be employed as bait for recreational fishing purposes, with the exception of bream (excluding redbreast).
  • Trout may only be used as bait on specific bodies of water, including Lakes Hartwell, Russell, Thurmond, Tugaloo, Yonah, Stevens Creek Reservoir, and the Savannah River.
  • When using game fish as bait recreationally, they must be counted towards the daily creel limit.

Freshwater Game Fish Seasons in South Carolina

In South Carolina, there are generally no closed seasons for freshwater game fish, except for specific areas and circumstances. Here are the key exceptions:

Striped Bass Exceptions

  • Striped bass fishing seasons may have exceptions. Please refer to the regulations regarding Freshwater Fish Size & Possession Limits for detailed information.

Restricted Areas

  • Cantey Bay, Black Bottom, and Savannah Branch in Lake Marion prohibit all watercraft and fishing activities from November 1st through February 28th.

Hatchery Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)

  • The Hatchery WMA located on Lake Moultrie imposes fishing restrictions. Fishing is prohibited each Saturday until 12:00 noon, and all day on the last Saturday of the waterfowl season.

Potato Creek Hatchery Waterfowl Area

  • The Potato Creek Hatchery Waterfowl Area is closed to public access and fishing during specific periods. Access is restricted one week prior to and two weeks after the Federal Waterfowl Season.

Selling and Importing Regulations in South Carolina

In South Carolina, strict regulations govern the selling and importing of freshwater game fish and other fish species. Here are the key guidelines:

Selling Freshwater Game Fish

  • Prohibition: It is illegal to sell any freshwater game fish in the state, except under specific circumstances.
  • Permitted Sellers: Freshwater game fish may be sold by individuals holding permits/licenses issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Permitted sellers include:
    • SCDNR permitted aquaculturists
    • SCDNR wholesale aquaculture licensees
    • SCDNR aquaculture game fish retail licensees
    • Private pond owners selling less than $2,500 in product annually.

Importing Fish Species

  • Native Species Requirement: It is unlawful to possess, import, or sell any fish species that is not native to South Carolina waters without obtaining a permit from the SCDNR.
  • Grass Carp: Sterile grass carp, often used for vegetation control, may only be sold, purchased, or possessed under a permit issued by the SCDNR.

Prohibited Practices in South Carolina

To ensure the preservation of aquatic ecosystems and the sustainable management of fish populations, South Carolina enforces strict regulations regarding prohibited practices. Here are the key guidelines:

Fishing Methods

  • Explosives, Electrical Devices, Poison: It is illegal to take game or nongame fish using explosives, electrical devices, poison, or similar means. These destructive methods are strictly prohibited to safeguard fish populations and their habitats.

Aquatic Species Release

  • Intentional Release: Except for bait lost during fishing activities and fish released back into their original waters, it is unlawful to intentionally release any aquatic species, including bait, into South Carolina waters without a permit from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). This regulation aims to prevent the introduction of invasive species and maintain the ecological balance of native aquatic environments.

Freshwater Mussels

  • Protection: Native freshwater mussels are protected species in South Carolina and cannot be taken without a permit from the SCDNR. An exception is made for Asian clams, also known as Corbicula. Individuals seeking to harvest freshwater mussels must obtain a permit from the Freshwater Fisheries Section.

Grass Carp

  • Preservation: It is unlawful to take, harm, or kill grass carp from public waters in South Carolina. Any grass carp inadvertently caught must be promptly returned to the water unharmed to ensure the preservation of this species.

Nonindigenous Fish as Bait

  • Restriction: Using nonindigenous fish as bait in waters where they are not established is prohibited, except for specific minnow species such as fathead minnows, golden shiners, and goldfish, including 'black salties.' This regulation helps prevent the introduction of nonnative species and protects native fish populations.

Blue Crabs

  • Retention Prohibition: Retaining blue crabs caught in freshwater bodies within the state is strictly prohibited. Any blue crabs captured must be promptly released back into the water to maintain ecosystem health and species diversity.

Game Zone 1 Regulations

  • Non-game Devices: The use of non-game devices is not permitted in Game Zone 1, as outlined by South Carolina's wildlife management regulations.


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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.