South Carolina Fishing Licenses: A Simple Guide
Sep 16, 2021 | 3 minute read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

We associate many different things with the “Palmetto State” – Southern hospitality, historic districts, shrimp and grits, sweet tea, and some of the best golf courses you can find. For passionate anglers, however, the first thing that comes to mind is excellent fishing. And they’re right! Before you hit the water though, you need a South Carolina fishing license.

The flag of South Carolina in the wind

If you’re fishing in SC for the first time and you’re not sure where to start, you’re in the right place. Read on for more information on the type of license you need, residency requirements, and other useful tidbits. Stay in the loop with current fishing rules and regulations and enjoy South Carolina’s freshwater and saltwater fisheries stress-free.

Looking for info on neighboring states, or around the US in general? Check out our full list of licensing guides here.

Who needs a fishing license in South Carolina?

The general rule is that every person who’s 16 and older needs to have a valid fishing license with them while fishing in the state. The type of license you need depends on whether you’re an SC resident or not and where you want to go fishing.

An infographic showing the dividing line between freshwater and saltwater fisheries on a map of South Carolina

If you’re not sure whether you need a freshwater or a saltwater license, there’s a rule that can help you out. Highway 17 is considered the official dividing line between freshwater and saltwater fisheries. Everything west of the highway (landward) is considered freshwater, while the coastal waters to the east (seaward) are saltwater.

Who can fish without a license in South Carolina?

While most people need permits, there are some groups that can fish for free in South Carolina. Free fishing is available to:

  • Anglers fishing with a charter boat (the price of your license is included in the trip’s price)
  • Anyone who owns a private pond or anyone who’s been given permission by the owner to fish their pond
  • Totally disabled veterans can get a free fishing and hunting license
  • South Carolina residents who are on active duty (but on leave in SC) and military personnel can fish and hunt without a license
  • Children under the age of 16 don’t need a license
  • Days when fishing is free for everyone: May 31st and July 4th

Information for Residents

To be qualified for a resident fishing license in South Carolina, you need to be a permanent resident of the state for at least 30 days. You’ll present your proof of residency – a state-issued valid Driver’s License or Identification Card – when applying for your fishing license. You should carry that same identification document with you while fishing.

You’ll also need to disclose your Social Security Number. This is to make sure that you’re compliant with DSS regulations. Foreigners permanently staying in South Carolina should provide their passport along with their SC ID and their Alien Identification Number.

Residents are also:

  • Military personnel or their dependent family stationed in South Carolina for 30 days or longer (a valid military ID necessary); 
  • Military personnel with permanent residency in SC, but currently stationed elsewhere (valid military ID necessary);
  • Full-time students enrolled in a school in South Carolina (a valid student ID necessary)

Costs for Residents

Depending on how long and where you’d like to fish, there are different fishing licenses available. Decide whether you want to fish for, pick a body of water, and buy the appropriate license. Only residents who are 64 and older can apply for a Lifetime Fishing/Hunting License. Here’s how much different resident fishing licenses can cost.

Resident License Type Cost
14-Day Freshwater Fishing License $5.00
1-Year Freshwater Fishing License $10.00
3-Year Freshwater Fishing License $30.00
14-Day Saltwater Fishing License $5.00
1-Year Saltwater Fishing License $10.00
3-Year Saltwater Fishing License $30.00
1-Year Freshwater Fishing & Hunting Combination License $25.00
3-Year Freshwater Fishing & Hunting Combination License $75.00
Lifetime Fishing & Hunting License (only for residents who are 64 and older) $9.00
Junior Sportsman License $16.00
1-Year Sportsman License $50.00
3-Year Sportsman License $150.00

There’s a variety of fishing/hunting permits you can buy if you want to kill two birds with one stone. If you know a 16-year old who would love to get a combo permit, you can buy them a Junior Sportsman License. Regular Sportsman Licenses allow you to fish and hunt in Wildlife Management Areas as well.

Information for Non-Residents

If you’re a non-resident who’d like to explore South Carolina’s fishing opportunities, you can certainly do so. The same licensing rules for residents apply to non-resident – all persons age 16 and older are required to have a valid fishing license. The main difference is that non-residents aren’t eligible for lifetime licenses. Also, fishing and hunting licenses need to be bought separately.

Costs for Non-Residents

The cost for non-resident fishing licenses depends on where and how long you’d like to fish for, just like with residents. 

Non-Resident License Type Cost
14-Day Freshwater Fishing License $11.00
1-Year Freshwater Fishing License $35.00
3-Year Freshwater Fishing License $105.00
1-Day Saltwater Fishing License $10.00
7-Day Saltwater Fishing License $35.00
1-Year Saltwater Fishing License $35.00
3-Year Saltwater Fishing License $105.00

Special Requirements

To use special fishing equipment for non-game freshwater fish, you’ll need additional tags along with your fishing license. Bear in mind that the use of gear like eelpots, jugs, and trotlines may be limited to certain days of the week or times of the year. It’s important to obtain all the necessary permits and familiarize yourself with the related regulations.

Non-Game Freshwater Fishing Permits & Tags Cost for Residents Cost for Non-Residents
Annual Jug Permit $5.00 $50.00
Annual Set Hook Permit $5.00 $50.00
Annual Eel Pot Tag $5.00 $50.00
Annual Gill Net Tag (except for Herring and Shad) $5.00 $50.00
Annual Hoop Net Tag $10.00 $50.00
Annual Trap Tag $5.00 $50.00
Annual Trotline Tag $2.50 $50.00

Where to Buy Your South Carolina Fishing License

An image that has a flag of South Carolina and the following text "Buying a South Carolina Fishing License, What You Need to Know"

Getting an SC fishing license is pretty straightforward, and you can do it in several different ways. You can buy one from the comfort of your own home or in person, whatever works best for you.

  • Buy it online: The most convenient way to buy your South Carolina fishing license is online, simply by going to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website. After that, all you need to do is print out your license and you’re set.
  • Buy it by phone: If you’d rather have someone talk you through the process, call 1-866-714-3611. The professional on the other side will help you sort it all out.
  • Buy it in person: There are 500 license vendors in SC that can sell you your license. If you prefer to get your documents in person, just pick a spot from this list that’s closest to you.
  • Lifetime Licenses: Residents who are 64 and older can apply for a Lifetime License in person by going to DNR offices in several locations. Before you go, remember to fill out this form and bring it with you. Alternatively, you can send in your application through the mail, along with a photocopy of your SC ID, to this address:

SC Wildlife Endowment Fund 
PO Box 11710
Columbia, SC 29211-1710 

What happens if I lose my license?

Losing a fishing license can happen to anyone, but don’t worry, it’s simple to get a duplicate. All you need to do is go to a vendor or to one of the SCDNR offices and submit a written statement confirming you’ve lost your license. After that, you’ll pay a $3 fee for a replacement. If you need a duplicate of your tags, you’ll need to go to the SCDNR offices to get it sorted.

Duplicate disability and lifetime licenses are provided for free – you can request one by calling (803) 734-3833. You can also ask for help through email at [email protected]

We did our best to cover all the information you need to buy a South Carolina fishing license. If you have any additional questions, it’s a good idea to get in touch with SCDNR operators. Dropping us a comment is another option. Are you ready? Then gear up, pack your license, book a charter near you, and let the fun begin!

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