Fishing Around Hilton Head Island
On Hilton Head Island you can fish in fresh and brackish water lagoons, tidal lagoons, estuaries (tidal creeks), inshore on the Calibogue Sound and offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. There are a number of artificial reefs and natural banks offshore that offer fine fishing. Charters are available from almost all commercial marinas.
You can go fishing on a party boat with a dozen or more, which will drift fish. Usually these operate inshore or not far offshore, though some will go to the outer reefs. Some specialize in shark fishing, usually late in the day and into evening. You can also charter an offshore (or inshore) boat that carries up to six passengers and will fish by trolling the bait. This is usually called deep sea fishing. The trips offered are typically either half-day or full-day excursions. For serious deep sea fishing, anglers will go to the Gulf Stream, which is about 70 miles from shore. The best time to go to the Gulf Stream is June through September.
In July of 2009, our legislature made a big change to our saltwater fishing regulations by requiring that all shore based fishermen, residents and tourists alike must buy a South Carolina saltwater fishing license. Up until then only boat fishermen were required to have a license. In a nutshell the new law reads:
“This act requires all individuals (16 and over) to have a saltwater recreational fishing license when harvesting marine resources, including finfish, oysters, clams, shrimp and crab.”
If you are fishing on a licensed pier or with a licensed charter captain, you are covered under their permit. You don’t need a license if you are crabbing with 3 or less drop nets, fold up traps or hand lines. Fishermen need a license to crab with a crab trap or pot.
Most of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Law Enforcement Officers have been very lenient when enforcing saltwater fishing license requirements. However, now is the time for all resident and guest fisherman to follow the rules.
The license process is easy and cheap. An annual resident SC saltwater fishing license is just $10 (14 day license for a SC resident license is $5). A non-resident can purchase a 14 day saltwater fishing license for $11 ($35 for the year). Licenses can be purchased 24/7 by phone at 1-888-714-3611 or online at www.sc.dnr.gov. You can do it in the car on the way to your fishing spot or buy it at Wal-Mart. A copy of South Carolina’s fishing rules and regulations can be found at most of the fishing tackle stores in our area or on the SCDNR website.
The minimum fine for not having a SC Saltwater Fishing License is $160 and each fisherman could be required to post a cash bond or go to jail. The maximum fine is more than $1,000. Saltwater fishing areas includes the beaches, all saltwater lagoons including those found in Palmetto Dunes and Sea Pines, public boat landings, and public and private docks and piers.
The SCDNR uses these license fees for fishery data collection and fishery management programs. In addition, SC receives federal excise tax revenues paid by fisherman and redistributed to the state based on the number of saltwater fishing licenses.
The SCDNR is doing everything it can to notify all fishermen that a SC Saltwater Fishing License is needed when fishing in saltwater. With the help of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, the Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club and the Town of Hilton Head, they will be launching an aggressive visitor information campaign so that everyone will have a good time fishing in our local waters.