Fishing in France

Find out about the fishing categories, seasons and the permits required to fish the fresh water rivers, canals, lakes and dams of France...

Fishing is a popular sport, widely practiced in the many rivers, canals and lakes of France and along the sea coast. The sport is strictly policed for ecological reasons, and all restrictions must be adhered to. Fishing is managed at a regional level.

Fishing in France: Where To Start

Any person wanting to fish in France must first get a fishing permit (carte de pêche) from the local AAPPMA (Associations Agrées de Pêche et de Protection du Milieu Aquatique) affiliated fishing association. The website of the Fédération Nationale de la Pêche links to local fishing association details. Find out where to fish in the area, the local legislation, fishing season dates for each year (these change depending on fish stocks) and where to get a fishing permit.
  • To find a local fishing association in France, visit federationpeche (in French) and select the relevant département

Fishing categories

Fishing areas fall into two categories, each of which has different permit requirements and seasons:
  1. Category 1 (première catégorie): waters mainly inhabited by trout, and those with fish of the salmonidea group (salmon, trout, freshwater whitefish) requiring protection;
  2. Category 2 (seconde catégorie): all other rivers, canals and lakes.
Note: It is illegal to fish without a fishing permit (carte de pêche); the local Mairies provides dates for the season.

Fishing permits

There are a variety of fishing permits available and it's obligatory for any person line-fishing in France to carry a valid carte de pêche on all fishing excursions. Permits are issued to an individual and include an ID photograph. If a permit is lost or destroyed a new one must be purchased. The carte de pêche available are:
  • Carte Personne Majeure: Annual card for adults, category 1 and 2 waters, all types of fishing
  • Carte Personne Mineure: Annual card for 12 to 18 year olds, category 1 and 2 waters, all types of fishing
  • Carte Découverte: Annual card valid from 1 January to 31 December for under 12s, category 1 and 2 waters, all types of fishing
  • Carte Journalière, Day-pass valid for all fishing, available throughout the year
  • Carte Vacances: Valid for 15 days from the point of purchase, for all category fishing during the period 1 June to 31 December
  • Carte Découverte Femme: Valid for all fishing, 1 line only
  • Personne Majeure Interdépartementale: Available in some départements
For a list of fishing permit categories (in English) Fishing permits can be bought online in some departments:

Fishing seasons

Open seasons vary for the two fishing categories from year to year. They also differ from region to region. The seasons are normally announced at the start of a year and may begin any time from early spring and end in autumn. Details of the season are published in local newspapers and are available from the town hall. The Fédération Nationale de la Pêche also publishes the dates on its website as soon as they become available.

Deep Sea Fishing

Fishing is generally permitted between 30 and 50 nautical miles from the coast with tuna and swordfish being the most commonly targeted prey. Licensed fishing parties generally use smaller coastal ports.

Spear fishing

This sport is heavily legislated with strict regulations regarding what may be caught, where it may be caught and when.

Shore and Coastal Fishing

Fishing from the beach or the rocks by the sea (pêche à pied) does not require a permit in France. It does however require the fisher to respect the following:
  • Some fish are subject to fishing restrictions during certain periods or in certain regions
  • Rules regarding minimum size of the fish
  • Amount of fish allowed
  • Knowledge of fishing rules
  • Fish caught may be for personal consumption only – fish may not be sold.

Sea fishing from a pleasure boat

As with shore fishing, no permit is required. However the catch may not be sold and there is a limit on the number of lines or traps that may be used. The City Hall (Mairie) or Affaires Maritimes in the department has information on local restrictions. Further Information