Is Magnet Fishing Illegal in South Carolina?

  • By: Chris
  • Last updated on January 20, 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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If you’re new to magnet fishing, I’m excited for you! But if you live in South Carolina, then not so much.

South Carolina has several laws upheld by the Department of Natural Resources, the Federal government, and other environmental and cultural management groups that monitor the illegal act of magnet fishing.

Say it ain’t so!

Sorry friend, the rumors are true.

Magnet fishing is 100% illegal in the state of South Carolina.

Why is Magnet Fishing Illegal in South Carolina?

Believe it or not, magnet fishing is legal in every US state except for South Carolina.

why is magnet fishing illegal in south carolina
I don’t make the rules. But it seems like one state didn’t get an invite to the party.

Of course, there are exceptions everywhere. 

As with metal detecting laws in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and other popular recreational regions of the country, some segments of land prohibit treasure hunting in any form.

But why is magnet fishing illegal throughout South Carolina?

The wording varies with each regulation, but the primary reason you can’t magnet fish in South Carolina is its impact on archaeological and environmental factors.

What makes it any different than magnet fishing in the bordering states of North Carolina or Georgia?

Well, that’s a political question. 

thats a political question
Just one of the many life lessons my family taught me.

And like my brothers and I learned when we were younger from listening to my dad and uncles going at it, you don’t talk politics at the dinner table. Or you’d have more than you can handle from grandma.

If you want a better understanding of the legality of magnet fishing in South Carolina, keep reading. Below are the more prominent entities and regulations prohibiting your new favorite hobby.

South Carolina Underwater Antiquities Act of 1991

The South Carolina Underwater Antiquities Act sets certain restrictions for the underwater recovery of relics, artifacts, and other sunken goods,

The written act is pretty long, but I’ve paraphrased the significant bits here.

In essence, recreational means of underwater recovery are permitted as long as no digging is required, and all retrieval methods can be done by hand.

In other words, the item must be resting above the sediment. And no excavation tools may be used.

item resting above the sediment
If you can grab it without digging, it’s all yours.

That includes fishing magnets.

The general idea behind this is that by not using a fishing magnet, there’s no chance of unintentionally disrupting the underwater environment.

Heritage Trust Act

The Heritage Trust Act was formed to task a new committee to seek out, identify, maintain, and protect natural and cultural interests in South Carolina.

With the help of other state agencies, the Heritage Trust Advisory Board has spent 40 years influencing policies and amassing almost 10,000 acres for preservation.

heritage trust act and preservation
The Heritage Trust Act is responsible for roughly 75 properties of protected land.

Any land owned by the SC Department of Natural Resources where you’d want to go magnet fishing is not permitted because of the Heritage Trust Act.

Even metal detecting is off-limits.

Other Federal Policies

If it was legal to go magnet fishing in South Carolina, you’d still have to contend with the Federal statutes in place that protects historical land and artifacts.

Fishing up some old hubcaps and grimy silverware would be fine.

But anything of real historical significance or value would fall under the protection of the many Federal Cultural Acts.

Or, as I like to call them…the big bad acronyms. The ASA, AHPA, NHPA, and ARPA, to name a few.

Do You Need a License to Magnet Fish in South Carolina?

do you need a license to magnet fish in south carolina
If you get a permit for magnet fishing in South Carolina, you’d be the first.

You don’t need a license to magnet fish in South Carolina because it’s not an option.

Maybe you’re thinking that there’s a loophole. 

There can’t just be one solitary state in the US that doesn’t allow magnet fishing, can there?

Before you waste your time getting your hopes up, let me make something clear.

You must still apply for a hobby license to dive recreationally and recover items underwater in South Carolina.

The SCIAA, or the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, approves the hobby license.

And they distinctly declare that magnet fishing and similar ‘destructive practice‘ collection attempts will not be allowed.

Now What?

now what do i do
Options, options, options.

I feel for you.

You picked the one hobby that your local government has essentially blacklisted.

Now what can you do?

The way I see it, you have two options if you aren’t willing to go out of state.

First, you could say damn the consequences and find a remote spot to test your shiny new fishing magnet.

Listen, I’m not condoning or damning the thought. But to pretend that it doesn’t already happen is just silly.

Or second, you could try your luck on private land.

Magnet fishing is fair game if you know someone with a water source on their property.

Just remember to get permission from the landowner. Otherwise, you’ll be trespassing, and if you did find anything, you couldn’t keep it.

begging for permission in sc
Asking for permission to hunt on private property is a must!

So, not all is lost!

If magnet fishing is something you’re really interested in and you’re determined to discover that next big find, you’ll figure out a way to make it happen.

Good luck…

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