10 Unhurried French Destinations for Fishing and Leisure
As one of the most beautiful countries in Western Europe, France boasts of being the most popular tourist destination in the world.
More than 80 Million tourists visit France annually to explore its amazing landscapes, architecture, history – and of course, its famed French culture. Its legacy is so rich that 37 of its locations have been declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO!
Apart from its iconic scenery and fabulous tourist venues, a lesser known fact about France is its amazing fishing experience. There are more than 75 exotic lakes, rivers and bays that are well- known for their fishing and water recreation.
In this post, we try to present you 10 underexposed French fishing sites, where you can enjoy great angling and French culture along with other activities. Let’s get started.
Known as Bassin d’Arcachon or Le Bassin, Arcachon Bay is located on the south-western coast of France. This Atlantic bay covers over 150 Km (93.2 miles) in area. There are few small islands scattered throughout the Bassin, adding to its sublime setting.
You can also enjoy staying in luxurious sea-Side villas situated on these small islands. Crystal-clear azure sea waters will certainly leave a lasting impression. While catching fish, you can also enjoy glorious pink skies that accompany the morning sunrise.
Famous For: Oysters, Sea Bream, Bluefin Tuna, Sea Bass.
Other Adventures: Biking along the bay is very popular among tourists and locals. You can also charter boats, enjoy windsurfing and kitesurfing. Local seafood is extremely delicious.
Lac du Bourget
Covered by Jura Mountains on the north, Lac du Bourget is the largest and deepest lake in France (11 miles/18 km long and 450 ft/137 m deep).
The famous lake was formed around 19,000 years ago. The site for the 7th Carnivorous Artificial Bait Boat World Championship in 2014, Lac du Bourget is often called the jewel of the Rhone-Alps region. Pike, Perch, Zander and Trout are prominent among other fish. There are more than 30 species of fish in Lac du Bourget.
Other Adventures: camping, kite surfing, golf & hiking. Local hot baths are very useful for arthritis and other ailments.
Lac de Saint-Cassien
Once famous for its night fishing, Lac de Saint-Cassien is one of the largest freshwater fishing spots in south-eastern France. Created in 1966 for the production of hydroelectric energy, today this lake covers over 1.49 miles and houses more than 10,000 Carp fish.
You can catch, Salmon, Trout and Pike here but this lake is the ultimate nirvana for anglers looking for giant Carp. Due to geographical restrictions, it has been relatively untouched by international tourism. Lac de Saint-Cassien will provide you authentic French experience, both in fishing and customs.
Be sure to ask locals for Carp tips, otherwise you might come empty handed! But be mindful that Carp fishing here is strictly catch and release – so have your cameras ready.
Other Adventures: camping, swimming, kayaking, hiking & strolling on the beaches.
Lake Der-Chantecoq (Lac du Der-Chantecoq) is in the heart of the Champagne region and just 120 miles east of Paris, usually 3-4 hour drive.
This place is very popular among international anglers and campers and is another popular Carp destination with catches in the 60 lbs range. Carp fishing, however, is only allowed during March and September; and authorities are very strict about permits and regulations.
Due to a lot of first timers, this place is also ideal for learning or practicing fishing. You can start your journey from here and move West or South.
Famous For: insanely giant Carp.
Other Adventures: bird observatory, camping, kayaking, jet skiing as well as cycling and rollerblading along its banks.
Capbreton is emerging as a new holiday destination in France. If you love the sea, this is the place to be. This Atlantic seaside town and port offer such wide variety of activities and some of the most pristine beaches in Europe. From exciting sea fishing to whale watching, surfing, boat tours, beautiful beaches and great seafood, Capbreton has it all covered! Here, You can enjoy every adventure sport there is!
You can find a huge variety of saltwater fish in Capbreton including Sea Bass, Bonito, Tuna, Marlin, Rock Salmon and Sea Bream.
Excellent atmosphere and weather make it the perfect place to end your fishing trip and relax. The city is very popular for its fishing competitions, seafood festivals and Jazz concerts.
Other Adventures: beach-going, windsurfing, kayaking and scuba diving.
Very popular among travel companies, Alder is a perfect family fishing destination. Covered with lush green fields, Alder provides a peaceful environment for angling. According to many visitors, it is just pleasure being there, let alone the excitement of hauling in a giant, 50 lbs French Mirror Carp!
Alder is a popular spot for “drive & survive” fishing trips. In such trips, travel companies provide you with a rental car and fishing equipment. You can camp in nearby fields and enjoy the real adventure.
Situated in the heart of Normandy Region, Northern France, and beautifully nestled among limestone cliffs on the English Channel, Dieppe used to be one of the famous French ports. Today Dieppe’s fishing industry remains a big part of its economy. As the top scallop port in France and with fresh daily catches of fish, Dieppe is a destination for seafood lovers.
For sport fishermen, it is well-known for its breathtaking fishing voyages. In recent years, Dieppe has seen massive foreign tourism, as this place has a become go-to destination for adventure fishing.
What You’ll Catch Here: Mackerel, Cod, Cuttlefish, Sole, Turbot and Whiting.
Known as “the River For beginners” in French, Rance (La Rance) is popular for beginner adventure fishing and family fishing trips in France. This 60 miles(97 km) river, in the Brittany region, dumps into the English Channel between Dinard and St- Malo and is home to the world’s second largest tidal power station.
About 14 miles (22.6 km) inland from the mouth the Rance lies the medieval riverfront town of Dinan, one of the best locations in all of Brittany for old world French charm. Cobblestone streets, old stone houses and quaint little shops and restaurants make this a must-visit destination.
Whether you are a seasoned pro or amateur, Rance will not disappoint you! As locals say, “Rance has something for everyone!” Angling activities are only permitted during spring and summertime and are highly monitored.
Located off the West Coast of France, Oleron ( Île d’Oléron) is the second largest island in France. Being completely isolated from the mainland of France, Oleron is connected via the largest bridge in France.
Interestingly enough this island has been overlooked by tourists and travelers, despite its magnificent mud flats, oyster beds and splendid fishing opportunities. Famous for its fabulous oysters, this island also offers some of the best adventure fishing trips. Oleron Bay grosses over 35,000 tons of oysters each year.
Oleron is ideal for sea and inshore/shore fishing as well as family fishing trips. Your catch here will include Sea Bass, Turbot, Sole, Mackerel and Sea Bream to name a few. Sea kayak fishing is also popular here.
Famous For: Oysters and other fish.
Other Adventures: Apart from its marvelous fishing there are many outdoor activities you can enjoy. Some include Swimming, windsurfing, kite surfing, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Located in the department of Lozère in southern France, Villefort is famous for its private fishing locations. Popular for its tourist attractions, Villefort is not your typical French fishing hub, as most of the lakes are personal properties, but this small French village offers tranquility, beauty and good fishing.
Villefort Lake, or Lac de Villefort in French, is the biggest public fishing destination, covered with lush green mountains, and relaxing sandy beaches. Trout, Perch and Pike are possible catches here.
Other Adventures: Hiking, Camping, Sailing, swimming, canoeing, Mountain Biking and Cycling
Fishing Survival/Travel Tips for France
1. Private Venue, Bay, River or Public Lake?
While planning your perfect Fishing Trip, you can choose from Public Lakes, Bays or Private venues. Depending on what kind of fishing, you must make this decision carefully, as fish species in each of these venues differ significantly.
Do your research before booking your excursion. If you are purely adventure-driven then there is nothing better than river or lake fishing as there are plenty across France, which will provide you with the wildest fishing experiences.
All public Lakes and rivers require a fishing permit from the French government. You can find your license in local bait and tackle shops or can apply for it online. Cost of a weekly fishing permit is around 30-40 Euros while most of the private venues do not require any permits whatsoever.
3. Right Time and Venue
Choosing the right time of the year and the location for your trip is essential for your outing. Not all venues will be open throughout the year; some will only open for a month or two.
Generally, fishing season in France starts on 1st May & ends the 31st. If you are planning for trekking or other adventure sports as well, then you must plan your expedition in early summer or spring.
4. Night Fishing?
While night fishing can sometimes provide you with the ultimate thrill, it is not permitted in some parts of France. So it is advisable to only pursue night fishing in private venues or permitted places.