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Fishing in France

France offers a wide range of fishing opportunities. You can fish for 83 different fish species in more than 500,000 km of brooks, 15,000 km rivers and hundreds of ponds and lakes in 94 French departments of the 96 departments in metropolitan France. Furthermore sea fishing at the Atlantic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea adds to the diverse fishing facilities. Kayak sea fishing in the Bretagne has become popular in recent years, but also sea bass fishing along the entire Atlantic coast can be great fun.

You do need either a fishing rod licence or a permit for legal freshwater fishing in France.

  • For public waters a fishing rod licence (“carte de pêche”) and
  • for private fisheries a fishing permit from the landowner is required.

However, a fishing licence or permit for sea fishing is not required in France!

1. Fishing rod licence (“carte de pêche”)

1.1 FNPF

Public freshwater fishing in France is organised by the French fishing association (Fédération Nationale de la Pêche en France, FNPF). Each year about 1,5 million anglers obtain a fishing rod licence from the French fishing association FNPF, only 3% of anglers in France are women. The French fishing association´s objectives are to:

  • protect the waters
  • support and develop the pleasure of fishing
  • save the environment

The FNPF discriminates two different categories of waters:

  • 1st category (première catégorie) – rivers, stretches of water (plans d’eau), lakes
  • 2nd category (seconde catégorie) – streams, canals and stretches of water with game fish

1.2 Types of fishing licences (“carte de pêche”)

There are various types of fishing rod licences (“carte de pêche”) available from the French fishing association FNPF. All are valid in 1st and 2nd category:

  • Carte interfédérale Personne majeure CHI”, valid 1 year in ALL 91 departments, 95€
  • “Carte Personne majeure”, valid 1 year in only one department, 73€
  • “Carte Découverte Femme”, women only, valid 1 year in only one department, 32€
  • “Carte Personne mineure“, under 18 years old only, valid 1 year in only one department, 20€
  • “Carte Découverte -12 ans“, under 12 years old only, valid 1 year in only one department, 6€
  • “Carte Hebdomadaire”, valid 7 days in only one department, 32€
  • “Carte Journalière”, valid 1 day in only one department, 10€

The “Carte interfédérale Personne majeure CHI” is the only fishing rod licence that enables the holder to fish in ALL 91 departements. For tourists and visitors staying not longer than 2 weeks, the “Carte Hebdomadaire” is the cheapest option. However if you are travelling through France or staying longer than 2 weeks the “Carte interfédérale Personne majeure CHI” or the “Carte Personne majeure”, respectively, might be the better options.

2. How to obtain a fishing rod licence?

The fishing rod licences available from the French fishing association FNPF can be ordered:

  • online in French
  • in a local fishing shop (many sellers offer this service)

The new service has translated pages to order:

For tourists and visitors ordering the Carte Hebdomadaire” is the cheapest option. However, if you are staying longer than 2 weeks, the “Carte Personne majeure” is the better option. If you are planning to travel through France the “Carte interfédérale Personne majeure CHI” might be the best option for you.

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3. Fishing permit

  • In France a fishing permit – as well as a fishing licence – for sea fishing is not required.
  • For fishing in public waters held by the French fishing association FNPF you do not need an additional fishing permit.
  • If you want to fish in a private fishery a fishing permit from the landowner is required.

3.1 Fishing permits for private fisheries in France

Fishing permits for private fisheries can be obtained from:

  • a local fishing shop
  • a private individual (fishery owner)

Fishing permits are usually available for daily and weekly fishing. You can find localfishing shops that sell daily and weekly permits or ask the owner of the private fishery directly.

4. Fishing regulations

NEVER fish without a valid fishing rod licence or without a fishing permit (if required). If you fail to produce these documents to the respective authorities you can be fined. For example when breaking the fishing rules whilst sea fishing you can be fined to up to 22.500€ (see here).

Most importantly, you should be informed about size limits, daily catch limits and closed seasons (see in the freshwater or seawater section). Closed seasons, size limits and daily catch limits depend on the particular region/fishery. However, before you go fishing to a particular fishery make sure your knowledge on the local fishing regulations is complete and up to date. A visit in a local fishing shop might help to get informed and be updated about recent changes.

General rules

  • Fishing is only allowed during daytime, half an hour before dawn and half an hour after dusk
  • An exception is night fishing for carp; it is allowed in certain fisheries (see here). Again, please check locally before you go fishing!
  • Fishing rods must not be left unattended

It is forbidden to fish:

  • within a distance of 50 meters from dams and weirs
  • within fish passes
  • in areas were fishing is preserved (“réserves de pêche”, watch the signs!)

4.1 Freshwater fishing – rules and closed seasons

Types of fish

Here is a list of common freshwater fish in France:Size limits

Size limits apply for freshwater and seawater fish. The length of the fish is measured from the tip of the muzzle to the end of the deployed tail. Size limits differ from department to department. Please check here for the specific department you want to fish in.

Here is an representative example for size limits from department 35 (Fédération de l’ Ille-et-Vilaine pour la Pêche):Catch limits

  • The daily catch limit for salmonids is 6 fish per day
  • Pike: maximum 2 fish per day
  • Pike, zander (perch-pike) or black bass: maximum 3 in total per day

Rules and closed seasons

The FNPF discriminates two different categories of waters:

  • 1st category (première catégorie) – rivers, stretches of water (plans d’eau), lakes
  • 2nd category (seconde catégorie) – streams, canals and stretches of water with game fish

4.1.1 Fishing rules in waters of the 1st category:

  • 1 fishing rod (in close distance to the angler) with
  • maximum 2 hooks or 3 flies
  • Traps for crayfish and other traps are subject to local regulations
  • Fishing is only allowed during daytime, half an hour before dawn and half an hour after dusk
  • Fishing Season: From 2nd Saturday in March until 3rd Sunday in September
  • Exceptions: For Grayling only from 2nd Saturday in May until 3rd Sunday in September

4.1.2 Fishing rules in waters of the 2nd category:

  • 4 fishing rods (in close distance to the angler) with
  • maximum 2 hooks or 3 flies
  • Traps for crayfish and other traps are subject to local regulations
  • Fishing is only allowed during daytime, half an hour before dawn and half an hour after dusk
  • Fishing Season: All year long
  • Season exceptions:
    • Pike fishing from 1st of May until the last Sunday in the following January
    • For grayling only from 3rd Saturday in May until 31st of December
    • For salmonids (trouts, char) from 2nd Saturday in March until 3rd Sunday in September for streams classified as salmon or sea trout waters

4.2 Sea fishing – rules and closed seasons

Size limits

Size limits also apply for seawater fish. The length of the fish is measured from the tip of the muzzle to the end of the deployed tail. Size limits depend on the place where you are fishing, please ALWAYS check size limits before fishing.

Information on sea fish size limits for 2016 can be found on www.finistere.gouv.fr , see here.

4.2.1 Fishing from the sea shore

There are no particular administrative formalities for fishing from the sea shore in France. However you must respect fishing rules and prohibitions:

Fishing rules are:

  • You must only use a hand-held line and tools like a knife and a fishing net
  • Fishing is only allowed during daytime
  • Fishing Season: All year long
  • You must respect size limits and catch limits
  • It is forbidden to sell caught fish

Whilst fishing from the sea shore it is forbidden to:

  • use a boat or another floating craft
  • use a land motor vehicle to practice fishing

If you brake these basic fishing rules you can be fined to up to 22.500€ (see here).

4.2.2 Sea boat fishing

For legal sea boat fishing in France you need:

  • A boat registration (“titre de navigation”)

This sounds like a lot of administrative formalities, but in fact you just need a boat registration containing your name with your home address, which is valid at the time of fishing. It is usually not difficult to obtain the boat registration from the relevant bodies for boats that are not longer than 20 meters (see here).

Luckily, sea fishing kayaks are not regarded as proper sea fishing boats. Kayaks thus do not need to be registered as long as they are without an engine (as long as it remains “human powered”; the French term is “à propulsion humaine”).

Only the following fishing tools are allowed on a boat for sea fishing:

  • Rigs with maximum 12 hooks
  • not more than 2 longlines with maximum 30 hooks
  • not more than 1 gaff
  • not more than 1 landing net
  • not more than 1 rake (only in the Mediterranean Sea)
  • not more than 1 ground fishing net (only in the Atlantic Ocean)
  • not more than 1 lift net (only in Bretagne, Pays de Loire et Aquitaine).

Fishing rules are:

  • You must respect size limits and catch limits
  • It is forbidden to sell caught fish

Controls

If you are controlled by an authorised person, you must:

  • Provide a proof of identity
  • Provide the boat registration (“titre de navigation”)
  • Present the fire extinguishers (expiry dates not exceeded)
  • Remember: Kayaks without engine do not require a boat registration!
  • present all the fishing gear
  • present the lifejackets

If you don´t comply with these rules you can be fined to up to 22.500€ (see here).


5. Where to fish?

General France

A good advice where to fish in France can be found here.

Quite concise information on freshwater fishing (lakes, ponds, rivers) and sea fishing can be found here . You can also find directions on renting cottages and information on fishing various fish species.

Lovely holiday houses with direct fishing opportunities can be found here.

Holiday homes in popular fishing regions can be found here.

A website with accommodation to rent near fisheries can be found here.

A good resource on fly fishing trips all over the world can be found here.

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Local information in France

Local fishing guides throughout France can be found here.

Trout stocked ponds in the centre of France (region Limousin), can be found here. The Moulin Authier is probably the loveliest fishing place I know and I strongly recommend a visit if you spend some time in the centre of France. You can also follow the news of Moulin Authier on Facebook.

If you are into fishing in Bretagne you can find guided fishing tours here. If you are new to fly fishing at the sea you might want to book this guide in Bretagne.

If you are into Catfish and/or Carp fishing, there are good opportunities in the rivers in southern France (Tarn, Garonne, Lot and Aveyron). Guided fishing tours with English speaking guides can be found here.

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2 Comments Write a comment

  1. I manage a privately owned and totally enclosed Etang on private land for the owner. We have an excess off young Rudd and I wish to fish them with Barbless hooks and transfer them elsewhere, do I need any Licence or permit? The primary aim is conservation and the fishing is not let to anyone.

    • S. Prall

      Hey Phil,

      thanks for your questions.

      I guess the owner is okay with you fishing in his pond (“etang”)?
      Whenever you fish a private water you need the permission of the owner only (no fishing rod licence is required for private fisheries).

      HOWEVER, I am not quite sure about transferring fish to another water. I think transfer to any public water is definitely forbidden (Because of possible transfer of diseases and parasites). If you know another private fishery you could ask the owner if he wants any rudd, although I guess they are not very much appreciated…

      Hope this helps,

      Seb

      PS: I am giving you my opinion. This not a legal advice!

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