North Myrtle Beach considers surf fishing rules changes

During the past summer a child got wrapped up in a fishing line while on the beach in North Myrtle Beach, prompting just one of a number of complaints the city government received concerning people fishing along the shore.

“A youngster was wrapped up in a fishing line that had a hook on it. [The child] wasn’t hurt, but it was a concern,” said city spokesman Patrick Dowling.

The city approved the first reading of an ordinance Monday that gives lifeguards and beach patrol officers the authority to ask surf fisherman to move or stop fishing if it is deemed to be unsafe to the public.

“I’ve been here three years and this was the first summer we’ve received complaints,” Dowling said.

In Horry County, Georgetown County and Myrtle Beach surf fishing is allowed with an S.C. surf fishing license, when done in a safe manner.

The North Myrtle Beach City Council held a couple of workshops earlier this year to address the concerns and initially considered banning surf fishing on public beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

That suggestion concerned some North Myrtle Beach residents who spoke at an Aug. 20 workshop and the council felt the proposed ordinance was the best compromise, Mayor Marilyn Hatley said during Monday’s meeting.

“If [lifeguards or beach patrol officers] see there’s a danger, they can ask [fishermen] to move,” she said.

Dowling said the council felt the month and time restrictions took the regulations too far.

Fishermen who refuse to move would be subject to punishment by a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both.

Diana Pieri – a Realtor who attended the August workshop in support of her brother-in-law who is an avid surf fisher – said she’s not sure how well the proposed ordinance would work.

She said most fishermen she’s spoken with said that kids typically are drawn to them as they fish to ask about fishing and to check out anything that gets caught.

“As a Realtor in the area, I just feel like fishermen will be annoyed because they’d have to move a lot. All the kids gravitate toward them,” she said. “I think the time restrictions were a better idea.”

The proposed ordinance also expands the law on shark fishing, banning it completely in any saltwater in city limits. The current law prohibits shark fishing within one mile of the public beach. All people wishing to fish in saltwater also will be required to obtain a fishing license from the state.

“That’s for the safety of everyone. No one wants to draw sharks to the area,” Dowling said.

In Horry County, Georgetown County and Myrtle Beach surf fishers are not allowed to create unsafe conditions for beachgoers, sunbathers and swimmers while fishing. An unspecified safe distance from beachgoers is required.

In Georgetown County, no fishing of any kind is allowed within 50 feet of a boat landing. Surfside Beach has no laws for surf fishing.