Fishing in France: The Ultimate Guide

Disclosure: Some posts contain affiliate links, which earn us a commission if you make a purchase through them. Positive Fishing © participates in various affiliate networks including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

Fishing in France is hugely popular with over a million people buying fishing permits every year. Therefore, and as you can probably imagine, there is some great fishing to be found in this beautiful country and there is a wide range of species on offer too. 

France is probably most famous for its carp fishing with some of the best carp lakes in the world but there is a lot more to it than that, which I hope to showcase to you below. 

I have spent a lot of time searching out some of the best fishing in France and by the end of the article, I would have divulged most of my secrets. 

  • We’ll discuss everything from the best fish to target in France
  • Where to find them and importantly how to catch them!
  • Who are the best companies to book with? 

Top Fish To Catch In France  

The fishing in France ranges from the wild mountain streams of the Alps to large slow-running rivers, and manicured lakes full of trophy-sized specimens we have all dreamed of catching. This range of habitats gives rise to quite a diverse pot of top fish to catch in France, all of which you’ll find below. 

  • Carp 
  • Brown Trout 
  • Grayling 
  • Pike 
  • Sturgeon 
  • Black bass 

The carp in France are really huge, generally far bigger than in the UK. If you know where to fish, an average-sized carp would be in the 30-40lb region with record catches pushing as high as 70-80 lbs. That’s some big carp and the reason people travel across the world to fish there. 

You might be surprised to see sturgeon and bass on the list. Sturgeon are one of the largest freshwater fish on the planet and bass one of the most aggressive so I’d highly recommend spending a day or two in pursuit of them. 

Where To Go Fishing In France 

Before we get into the best fishing spots in France let me just say that no matter where you go, you’ll be fishing in a beautiful place. Whether it’s a forest-covered stream or a countryside lake, the landscapes around you are stunning. 

Carp Lakes 

Mirror carp caught recently in “secret” French carp lake

Renowned as the best carp lake in France, Boux is a 14-acre lake that consistently delivers carp in the 40 to 50 lbs range and has a lake record of over 65 lbs. The lake has been going since the 1980s and it only seems to get better. They only allow 5 anglers to fish the lake at a time so make sure to book in advance. 

Villefond is another one of Frances’s best carp lakes and it holds a lot of fish over 40lbs and one specimen that has tipped the 80 lbs scale. The carp all Villefond take some convincing so you better bring your A-game and once hooked, they fight extremely hard. 

Laroussi is also a carp angler’s paradise with almost every fish in the lake being at least 40 lbs and pushing way up to 70 lbs.  The lake is a total of 14 acres and is surrounded by the stunning French countryside. 

All the carp lakes I have mentioned above really are the best and you can book almost bankside accommodation when fishing there, but more on how to book later. 

Bass & Sturgeon

Hunters Retreat is a 5-acre lake in the stunning Loire Valley of central France and it’s home to a wide range of carp species along with sturgeon, bass, and even a few small pike. It’s the perfect place to go fishing if you want to target a range of species all in one body of water. 

The lake is quite exclusive and can only be fished by 3 anglers at the same time. If you want to fish at Hunters Retreat make sure to book way in advance. 

Trout, Grayling, & Bass 

The Dordogne region of south-central France is tucked between the Pyrenees and the Loire Valley and while the main river in the area is the Dordogne, it’s the smaller tributaries and lakes which surround it that are worth fly fishing in.

The best part of the Dordogne region to fish from is around the upper sections of the Dordogne river between the towns of ​​Argentat and Beaulieu. Here you’ll find a lot of streams that hold trophy sizes trout and grayling that are perfect for targeting with a fly rod. 

The best tributaries to spend your time on include the Doustre and the ​​Maronne and you should also fish the Dordogne at Beaulieu. The rivers are super clear and the fishing is fantastic when using both dry flies and nymphs. 

There are also a few ponds in the area with bass in them and casting a popper fly into them and stripping it back makes for some great afternoon entertainment. 

Something to be aware of when fly fishing in France on rivers is to remember to fish the no-kill sections only. This is where the trout and grayling would have been left alone to grow to better sizes – more on regulations later. 

When To Go Fishing In France  

Almost every fishery I have mentioned above is closed during the winter to allow the fish to rest during the cold months. This is also when fish tend to be less active and the chances of catching them plummet, so it’s a win for everyone, anglers and fish. 

If you’re looking to hit the carp lakes of France then your window will be from April to October when the private lakes are open for business. If it’s trout and grayling you’re after, then the season opens in early March and closes in late September. 

I would highly recommend fishing in France in May as this is when the fish are likely to be most active. The water will have warmed up, the aquatic life booming, and the fish will be hungrily putting on the weight they lost over winter. 

May is also when you should see a good mayfly hatch on the trout and grayling rivers making for some amazing dry fly fishing.

Best Ways Of Catching Fish In France 

There are three main styles of fishing that work best in France depending on what species you’re trying to catch and your preferred methods. 

If you’re a fly fisherman then you can target pretty much every species on the list bar sturgeon. But I’d recommend sticking to fishing nymphs and dry flies for grayling and trout and then throwing on a popper when going after bass. 

Carp fishing is best done by fishing various rigs on the bottom – far too many to go into this article!. There are so many carp techniques between using ledgering and float fishing methods.

Most anglers that travel to France are serious and competent carp specialists and will have their favourite Ronnie rigs, critically balanced rigs and specialist bait formulations such as fishing with Belachan. 

Generally, speaking what works in most carp lakes in Europe will work in France as well. 

Carp eat almost every bait offered to them, for the most popular baits you can read my article on the best carp baits here!

When spin fishing for bass and pike, you’re best off casting and retrieving lures or using live/dead bait when in search of a really big pike! 

How To Book Your Fishing Trip To France 

Fishing at Dordogne

Booking your fishing trip to France couldn’t be easier. You have the choice to either go with a fishing tour operator or do it yourself by hiring a car and hopping around the French countryside sampling both the fishing and the wine. 

If you want to fish the best carp lakes in France you should speak to Angling Lines. They have direct relationships with all the lakes and can put together a trip that includes almost everything from food to travel and accommodation. 

For anyone interested in fly fishing in the Dordogne, contact Club Fish World. This company works with guides in the Dordogne and will organize everything you need to have a great time catching trout and grayling. 

I personally much prefer hiring a car and building my own fishing map to follow when going on adventures. One tends to learn much more about fishing in a given area this way. Just make sure you fishing with a local guide on your first day in each area to get the local lowdown. 

Fishing Regulations In France 

French fishing regulations state that you must have a fishing license to be able to fish the freshwaters of France. You can easily buy them online from Carte De Peche. You have the option to buy a yearly, monthly, weekly, and even day license. 

There is a long list of rules you have to follow when fishing in France from the number of hooks you can use to the fish you can or can’t kill or must kill. The Carte De Peche website does a good job of explaining them all. 

Make sure you have your fishing permit with you at all times when fishing in France as the banks are patrolled by wardens. If you’re caught without a permit you are likely to be in trouble and experience a heavy penalty. 

If you’re fishing on private carp lakes in France then you will need to follow the lake’s own regulations. Some will only allow certain techniques, line styles, and line breaking strains too, so be sure to check before you arrive with the wrong tackle.  

You can learn more about getting a France fishing license in my article here!

Reeling Up 

Thanks very much for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and are ready to go on a French fishing adventure. Between the amazing scenery, wine, food, and fish, you really can’t go wrong. 

France is just one of the places I cover on this website, check out my other articles on fishing in other countries here! 

Jamie Melvin