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From the Coast to the Mountains, South Carolina Is a Fishing Fanatic’s Paradise

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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Whether your favorite fishing involves crashing through the waves of the Atlantic, casting a line from the beach, cruising across a huge inland lake, wetting hooks in a pond or fly-casting in a roaring river, South Carolina has a spot (or several) where you can fulfill your favorite angling fantasy.

The Palmetto state is blessed with rivers, lakes, mountain streams, salt marshes and the Atlantic Ocean, all of which offer terrific fishing. It can be as simple as a fishing pole and worm, or as high-tech as you see on championship fishing shows.

Whether you're new to the sport or could cast a line before learning to read, a great place to start is the SC Department of Natural Resources website, which includes a detailed fishing guide and all the regulations you need to know about.

Here's what you need to know to catch all the fun on your next fishing adventure:

Where to fish


The SC coastline has an endless list of communities where deep-sea fishermen can depart to plumb the Atlantic Ocean, from the Grand Strand in the northeast to Beaufort in the southwest, with such gems as Georgetown, Charleston, Edisto Island and Hilton Head Island in-between. Many marinas offer day and half-day deep sea treks out to the Gulf Stream. A vast array of species include dolphin fish, flounder, Red Drum, sharks and many more.

For beachcombers, lines cast into the surf can yield crab, shrimp, oysters, lobster and other shellfish, as well as shad, herring and other deepwater fish. Fishing from one of the state's many piers also has its advantages, with anglers scoring spots, sea trout, flounder and more.

Find more information on your favorite saltwater catch here.

Midlands Lakes

With 14 major reservoirs covering nearly 370,000 acres, South Carolina's network of man-made lakes is a product of work by utility companies to generate power. The Santee Cooper Country map includes Lakes Marion, Moultrie and Murray; Lake Wateree and Lake Monticello north of Columbia; and other, smaller state lakes including Lake Edgar Brown (Barnwell), Lake George Warren and Webb Center Lakes (Hampton), Bonneau Ferry WMA Lake (Berkeley) and more. Bass and other freshwater fish are plentiful. Expect to find striped bass, small and largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, catfish and various panfish such as crappie and bream.

Upstate Lakes

Several large lakes dot the Upstate area, including several along the state border with Georgia, including Lake Hartwell, Lake Monticello and Lake Thurmond. To the east near Rock Hill is Lake Wylie, while Lake Secession in Abbeville, Lake Greenwood,Lake Keowee (Oconee) and Lake Jocassee (Pickens) are also favorites. Smaller lakes include Jonesville Lake, Lancaster Reservoir and Lake Cherokee in Gaffney. Expect to find small and largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish and pumkinseed, among others.

Find more information about fishing in SC lakes here.

Rivers and Ponds

South Carolina is crisscrossed with large and small rivers, from the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in Charleston, May River near Bluffton and the Edisto River (Orangeburg) to the Chattooga River flowing from the Blue Ridge Mountains near Oconee. And there are countless ponds across the state, both private and public, for a more relaxed fishing experience. In Upstate streams and rivers, fish for brook, brown or rainbow trout. The lakes and ponds offer excellent fishing for catfish, bass, crappie, sunfish, bream and others.

Find more information about fishing in SC rivers here and ponds here.

Fishing Licenses

If you're age 16 or older and fishing in public waters, you'll need to get a fishing license from the state Department of Natural Resources. You don't need a license if you're fishing in a private pond, on a licensed charter boat or from a licensed pier. Licenses can be bought for a two-week period or yearly, and SC residents can buy ones good for three years.

Getting a license is easy and can be done in several different ways:


By phone at 866.714.3611

From one of more than 500 license vendors, which generally include hunting and fishing stores, tackle shops and other similar businesses.

Catch and Release

Certain species of fish, and others at certain times of year, are subject to catch-and-release regulations. The rules vary widely; to determine specific rules here.

Dos and Don'ts

Like most outdoor sports, fishing in South Carolina also has unwritten rules of behavior that true sportsmen and women know and obey. For newcomers to the sport, here are some general etiquette and safety guidelines:

1. Always respect private property. Get permission if you are planning to fish from it.

2. Be respectful of other people fishing. Give them adequate room to fish; there is space for everyone.

3. Never litter, especially with mono-filament lines. Birds and other animals can get tangled in it.

4. Report people violating fishing regulations.

5. Catch and release whenever possible. Don't keep fish you are not going to eat.

6. Use only barbless hooks on Delayed Harvest streams or if you are planning to catch and release.

7. Use steel split shot instead of lead. It is better for the environment.

8. Never keep a trout over 15 inches. Smaller ones taste better and returning larger fish to the stream ensures larger fish in the future, since they have good reproductive genes. Bring a camera and a way to measure your fish.

9. Flash flooding is common in sections of steep backcountry terrain. Be aware of the weather forecast before going. Never fish these sections alone.

10. When fishing tailwater sections, be aware of release schedules.

11. Wear belted waders to prevent the water from entering your waders should you end up going for a ride.

12. Because mountain stream and river beds are quite slippery; good felted sole wading boots with ankle support are a must.

13. Clean and dry your boots and gear between trips to stop the transmission of invasive species.

14. Always carry a first aid kit.

15. As you cast, keep an eye out for hornets' nests in the trees over the water.

16. Always tell someone where you are going.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.