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Fishing in Germany

Germany offers plenty of fishing possibilities throughout the country. In the north of the country there is the North Sea in the north-west and – more importantly – the Baltic Sea in the north-east. Fishing in the port of Hamburg is famous for zander fishing, but also captures of huge carps are seen. The lakes of the “Mecklenburgische Seenplatte” and around Berlin form a huge variety of waters, called the “land of thousand lakes”. There is also good trout fishing in mountain rivers of the Harz in the centre of the country and of course in Bavaria in the countless mountain rivers of the German alps. Scores of ponds and lakes can be found throughout the country. Furthermore you can find numerous ponds that are trout stocked in whole Germany.

For most of the waters both, a valid fishing rod licence (Fischereischein) and a fishing permit are required to fish in a particular fishery. The only exception is the coast of the North sea from Niedersachsen, where you don´t need a fishing rod licence or a permit at all.

1. Fishing rod licence (Fischereischein)

German nationals require a fishing rod licence to fish in Germany. To obtain the German fishing rod licence (Fischereischein), an exam (Sportfischerprüfung) has to be passed. The knowledge for passing the fishing exam includes fishing rules and regulations like size limits and general angling law. To prepare for the exams local angling clubs organise mandatory preparation courses and upon passing the exam a pass certificate (Prüfungsbescheinigung) with lifetime validity is issued. The pass certificate enables the holder to apply for the German fishing rod licence (Fischereischein) at the local town hall (Bezirksamt). The validity of the German fishing rod licence depends on the regulation of each federal state. Either it has to be renewed every couple of years (Every 1,3,5 or 10 years) or an annual fee as to be paid for the validity of lifelong issued German fishing rod licences.

Except of the federal states Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Sachsen-Anhalt, children are allowed to fish without fishing rod licence, as long as they are accompanied and supervised by an adult that holds a valid German fishing rod licence (according to the age of the child the regulations of the specific federal state apply!).

Except of the federal state Bremen and Hamburg, foreigners can obtain a fishing rod licence without passing an exam. Again the regulations of the specific federal state differ in details. Some federal states require no fishing rod licence at all, whereas require a fishing rod licence for foreigners. Some federal states issue a German fishing rod licence without a proof of competence. However, many federal states require a proof of competence in the form of a membership of a foreign angling association or a foreign fishing rod licence. The validity of the issued fishing rod licence for foreigners depends on the regulations of the specific federal state and is between 28 days up to 1 year.

In the federal states Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein EVERYONE (no matter if foreigner or German) can buy a German tourist fishing rod licence that is valid for 28 days. This is of particular interest for anglers wanting to fish in the Baltic Sea.

Anglers with a tourist fishing rod licence, likewise all other anglers, require an additional fishing permit from the owner for the particular water they want to fish.

2. How to obtain a fishing rod licence?

2.1 German nationals:

German nationals require a fishing rod licence to fish in Germany. To obtain the German fishing rod licence (Fischereischein), an exam (Sportfischerprüfung) has to be passed. To prepare for the exams local angling clubs organise preparation courses and upon passing the exam a pass certificate (Prüfungsbescheinigung) with lifetime validity is issued.

Here is a list of all angling clubs in Germany, most of them will regularly organise preparation courses for fishing exams. A good resource with links to the authorities of each federal state in Germany and some information on fishing licences and courses can be found here. A list of preparation courses for fishing exams in each federal state can be found here.

2.2 Foreign visitors:

Except of the federal state Bremen and Hamburg, foreigners can obtain a fishing rod licence without passing an exam. Information on where to obtain the fishing rod licence can be found here. However, knowledge of German (a translator) is necessary and eventually some phone calls.

Before you actually go fishing, make sure you have got a valid fishing permit from the owner for the particular water you want to fish!

2.3 Tourists: Fishing at the Baltic Sea and in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or Schleswig-Holstein

In the federal states Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein EVERYONE (no matter if foreigner or German) can buy a German tourist fishing rod licence that is valid for 28 days. This is of particular interest for anglers wanting to fish in the Baltic Sea.

Places that sell the German tourist fishing rod licence in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern can be found here.

In Schleswig-Holstein the German tourist fishing rod licence can be obtained from the local town hall (Bezirksamt). Alternatively it can be done online here, however knowledge of German language (a translator) is required to complete the process.

3. Additional fishing permit

Nearly everywhere in Germany you need an additional permit from a fishery owner or an angling club to actually fish in a particular fishery. This is important because, if you fish without a permit and/or license you can be fined. For example in Schleswig-Holstein you can be fined up to 25,000,- Euros for fishing without a rod licence or a permit.

3.1 General information on fishing permits

In Germany a fishery owner can be:

  • the state
  • an angling club or
  • a private individual

Fishing permits can be obtained from:

  • a local tackling shop
  • an angling club
  • a private individual (fishery owner)

Fishing permits are available for daily, weekly and monthly fishing. You can find local tackling shops that sell daily and weekly permits. Yearly permits are usually issued upon membership in an angling club. A list of all angling clubs in Germany can be found here.

3.2 Additional permit required

Fishing in the Baltic Sea requires a permit for

  • Schleswig-Holstein see here  
  • Mecklenburg-Vorpommern see here 

3.3 No additional permit required

The only free freshwater fisheries in Germany can be found in:

  • Hamburg see here 
  • Schleswig-Holstein  see here
  • Bremen – Residents only!

Fishing in the North Sea requires no permit for:

  • Niedersachsen, you do not even need a fishing licence, only an ID is sufficient!

4. Local fishing regulations

In Germany, fishing is regulated and monitored by regional fishing associations (Landesfischereiverbände). Each federal state has one or more regional fishing associations and regulations differ between states. Links to the relevant websites can be found here. Furthermore, particular fisheries might impose additional regulations.

A reminder: 

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. Furthermore you are risking up to 2 years of imprisonment. Be aware that you are breaking several laws at the same time (e.g. theft, cruelty to animals, poaching). In Schleswig-Holstein you can be fined up to 25,000,- Euros for fishing without a rod licence and/or a fishing permit (see here).

Most importantly, you should be informed about size limits, daily catch limits and closed seasons. Size limits for each federal state can be found here. 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.

You may also find information on the backside of your fishing permit or affiliated with the information provided by the body issuing the fishing permit. To be able to roughly understand this information, which is usually only given in German, here is a list of available fish in Germany:

General rules

  • Fishing rods must not be left unattended
  • It is not allowed to use living fish as lure, fish must always be killed before using it as a lure
  • Practicing catch & release is forbidden – except of releasing fish due to size limits or closed season!

5. Where to fish?

In Germany there are plenty of angling clubs that offer access to certain waters. You can visit a local tackling shop or have a closer look in the internet into the region´s angling clubs yourself.

list of all angling clubs in Germany can be found here.

You can book fishing trips on Angelreisen.de, see here.

Another excellent website with loads of information on fishing in the “land of thousand lakes” in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern can be found here.

Boat trips in the sea are very popular in Germany, you can find some here:

  • North Sea
  • Baltic Sea
    • The island Rügen, see here
    • The island Rügen, see here
    • The island Rügen, see here
    • The island Fehmarn, see here
    • The island Fehmarn, see here

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