It’s the biggest myth concerning fish and game laws ever told. I’ve heard it my whole life. I first heard it when I was a teenager, and I knew it was wrong then. The first time I heard it, I’d just caught my first catfish over 20-pounds on the Wateree River. I caught it while using a live bream as bait. “Ohhh, don’t let the game warden catch you doing that, or he’ll put you UNDER the jail,” said another angler who asked me the usual questions when seeing my catch. He wasn’t the only person to say it that day. And people still say it when you tell them you used a live bream to catch a catfish.
The thing is, they are wrong. I knew it when I was just a kid, and it’s the same story today. Using live bream as catfish bait is not illegal, and no game warden is going to throw you under, or even in jail for doing so. It’s one of those old wive’s tales that just keeps getting repeated over and over.
I’ve always been a stickler for knowing the fish and game laws, at least the ones that pertained to me, so I’m still a little bit baffled and a little bit amused by how many people believe, and repeat this same myth. Even folks that fish more than I do often say, and presumably believe it.
The crazy thing is, not only does the SCDNR regulation booklet not say it’s illegal, it actually states in black and white that it IS legal. The 2015-2016 SCDNR regulations state “no game fish may be used as bait to catch fish recreationally except for bream (other than redbreast).”
One stipulation goes along with that rule that anglers should know. When using a bream as bait, that bream must be included in your daily creel limit. So, if fishing in a lake with a 30-fish limit for bream, you must subtract each bream you use as bait from that number, even if the catfish swallows the baitfish whole. If you use five bream as bait, you must not have over twenty-five bream in your cooler, livewell, or stringer.
Don’t let other folks sway you wrong on fish and game laws. The regulation booklets are available anywhere that sells a fishing license, and the regulations are also on the SCDNR’s website.