Guide to fishing in France

Guide to fishing in France

Fishing is another popular pastime in France, but make sure you’ve got the right permits before you start

Just under 1.3 million people purchased freshwater fishing permits in France last year, according to the 3,800 or so freshwater fishing associations across the country. these figures represent a 3% reduction on the previous year.

Again it is a predominantly male sport, with adult men representing around two thirds of participants, while under 18s accounted for 10% and women 4%, with the remainder made up of occasional and holiday dabblers.

Various associations and branches operate under the umbrella of the Fédération Nationale de Pêche who help acquire, rent and regulate local fishing rights to ensure there is plenty and varied fishing to enjoy in France. They are also active partners in protecting the waters, carrying out maintenance, and protecting aquatic ecosystems and fishing heritage.

Anyone wishing to fish in inland fresh water must buy a valid permit and keep it on them at all times. Wardens and gendarmes keep a close eye on proceedings and if you don’t have a permit or are found to violate any of the local fishing laws, you could be in for trouble.


Fishing licences can be bought from a number of places, including local federations and associations, the mairie, village newsagents and tourist offices. In the last couple of years, it has also been possible to buy permits online at, a service that has proved highly popular with the fishing community in France.

Permits come in all shapes and sizes – there are annual, monthly, weekly, and daily options, and there’s also a women’s discovery permit (bafflingly cheaper than a normal daily or weekly permit – EU equal rights eat your heart out) and a perhaps more acceptably cheaper discovery permit for under-12s.

On the bright side, you don’t need a permit to fish in the sea, unless of course you plan on taking it to commercial levels.


There is a fairly exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts for fishing in France, from what you can kill to what you can’t kill, and even to what you are

obliged to kill, through to how many lines, hooks and weights you can use, and also details on where you can or can’t fish.

The Fédération de la Pêche provides good overall guidelines, but advises conferring with local and departmental associations for a comprehensive low-down in each territory.

The freshwater fishing season runs principally from late March to late September, for rivers and lakes mostly populated with trout, salmon and carp; grayling fishing is authorised from late may to late September. In contrast, fishing in waters home to pike and zander (classed in a secondary category) is authorised throughout the year.

Where to fish

There is an abundance of choice depending on how, what and when you want to fish in France, but wherever you go, it’s always worth trying to butter up a few of the locals over a glass of their favourite tipple. It isn’t easy to get them to divulge the hotspots, but if you can find just one person willing to share a little insider knowledge, it could help you reel in the rewards.

Fancy trying your hand at hunting in France? Read our guide to find out the hunting rules and regulations first.

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