Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page





In France, a distinction is made in law between free waters and land-locked waters. Free waters, or waters which flow to the sea, include all bodies of water and their tributary streams whose waters, whether or not connected with other bodies of water or streams, flow into the sea. The downstream limit of this river system is formed by the “point of disappearance of salinity in the water”; this point is determined by decree.

The term “land-locked waters” does not appear in law; it is opposed to the term “free waters.” Land-locked waters are bodies of water which are closed off in such a way that the fish living in them can have no contact with free waters. Communication with free waters must be absolutely impossible. Land-locked waters can be ponds, ditches, pools or even small lakes. They are outside the jurisdiction of river-fishing regulations under the Rural Code, and their owners and the owner's assignees can “fish” in them in any season, by day or by night, by any means (except poison).


Free waters in France include:

Public Domain

Under the law of 16 December 1964, the public river domain may include not only bodies of water and streams intended for navigation and bodies of water and streams which flow into these waterways, but also streams which supply water to agriculture and industry and which serve as a water-supply for the population and as flood protection. This public domain includes 4 680 km of canals, 11 800 km of streams, and 31 700 ha of domanial lakes, not including the Grand Lieu Lake1 It cannot be appropriate for private use.

1 It should be mentioned that the state has just acquired the Grand Lieu Lake, which forms a vast natural reserve of 3 500 ha.

Private Lakes and Streams

Private streams are those whose beds belong to riparian owners. These include:

In dealing with fishing, lawmakers have had to establish two categories, one based on the presence of trout (Category 1) and the other on its absence (Category 2). This classification entails regulatory restrictions on the use of each category to ensure proper protection of each.

Category 1 Streams

These trout-bearing streams are particularly numerous in mountainous regions. They may be considered to represent 225 000 km of the country's river system, i.e.:

Category 2 Streams

Minnow and pike-bearing streams hold various proportions of fish belonging to the family Cyprinidae (chub, roach, rudd, carp, bream, tench, bleak, etc.) and carnivorous fish (pike, perch, pike-perch, black bass, etc.). These are waters of the plain and the peneplain, totalling some 50 000 km:


Approximate fish productivity can be estimated as follows:

These estimates of annual productivity are the result of sampling rather than a more direct census approach. In certain cases, the estimates are very difficult to make (lakes subject to seasonal variations in level, ponds which are unsupervised or even completely abandoned).

A summary of annual production is given below:

Type of waterEstimated annual productivity (tonnes)
Trout-bearing streams 
 Brooks     525
 Creeks     420
 Rivers     780
 TOTAL  1 725
Minnow and pike-bearing streams 
 Creeks     220
 Small rivers     420
 Floatable rivers     505
 Navigable rivers  4 380
 TOTAL  5 525
Bodies of water 
 Natural lakes     800
 Reservoirs     400
 Ponds15 000
 TOTAL16 200

This potential productivity is certainly much greater than the total catch of professional fisheries and sport fishermen as far as Category 2 waters are concerned (minnow and pike). On the other hand, it is much lower than the total taken by amateur fishermen alone in Category 1 waters (trout-bearing), considering the popularity of this type of fishing.

It should be mentioned that, quantitatively speaking, the production of ponds alone represents 63,7% of the total production of the inland waters of France, and the production of ponds and navigable rivers represents 82,3% of the total.

Possibilities for Improvement

Although brooks and creeks are not very interesting as far as fishing is concerned, they are often excellent spawning grounds for Salmonidae and may thus contribute to the quality of larger bodies of water as hatcheries or nursery streams. Their productivity could be greatly increased through relatively minor improvements and attentive supervision.

The small trout-bearing rivers are generally in poor condition due to lack of maintenance, diffused pollutants and a lack of organization in hydraulic as well as fishing use. The only hope for future improvement lies in an overall program of planned and lasting measures for maintenance and protection, a better conception of enrichment and a better distribution of fishing activity.

Clean-up programs undertaken by industry and municipalities are probably more effective on large minnow and pike streams than on smaller ones; in connection with improvements to spawning-grounds, they have already brought about a clear improvement in the state of some stretches of large waterways (Vieux Rhin [northern branch of the Rhine passing through Leyden and Utrecht], the Oise and the Yonne).

There is still room for improvement in natural bodies of water, although clean-up programs have already brought good results in the Lake of Annecy. The type of fishing practised also determines the development and growth of their fish populations.

Reservoirs created for reasons other than fishing (electricity, regulation of water, irrigation, etc.) are neither developed nor managed with fish production in mind. Their productivity could be increased through adoption of water regulations, determined in consultation with representatives of fishermen, and by rational use by professional fishermen and tourists.

The potential of ponds could be greatly increased (probably more than doubled) by improved development and management methods and techniques.

Inventory of Surface Water Quality

The law of 16 December 1964, dealing with the regime and distribution of waters and with anti-pollution measures, provides that an inventory of the degree of pollution of surface waters will be carried out for the whole of France.

This country inventory was carried out in 1971 and 1976 within the framework of an interministerial project involving all departments concerned with water: Industry, Agriculture, Transport, Health and the Family, Environment and Quality of Life. The inventory of water quality throughout France was taken at over 1 200 points, involving 525 rivers. The principal pollutants listed are: mineral materials (mainly chlorides and sulfates); organic material (BOD); products of the nitrogen cycle; detergents; radioactivity.

Generally speaking, and taking into account decreased flows due to the drought of 1976, we can say that comparison of the two inventories shows a general improvement, except for nitrogen pollutants. This phenomenon seems mainly due to the increase in collective water-purification by towns and villages as well as drainage of agricultural land.


The interrelations between the quality of the environment and the overall biological structure (of which fish are a part) are extremely close and numerous. Any fishing activity thus calls for simultaneous studies, by means of inventories and samplings dealing with a set of abiotic and biological characteristics. Chemical and toxicological data have their limits; they are only a part of the overall description of the environment and they should be supplemented by ecological information.


Identity of Principal Species Present

From a legal viewpoint, the list of species present in the fresh waters of France is given in the decree passed on 4 June 1957, supplemented by a decree passed on 30 December 1957 (Table 1).

Fishing Pressure on Various Species

These species do not all present the same interest for fishermen. Depending on the pressure to which they are subject, we can divide the principal species of fish present in aquatic ecosystems in France into four groups.

Species sought after by amateur or professional fishermen
 WhitefishRainbow trout
 ShadAtlantic salmon
 Common eelNorthern pike
 Brown troutPerch
 Common mulletPickerel
 Arctic charLake trout
Species sought only by professional fishermen
 Flounder or fletSilverside
 Common smeltGreat sea lamprey
Species sought only by amateur fishermen
 GraylingCommon carp
 Brook troutBream
 GoldfishFreshwater bleak
 FallfishBlack bass
Species not sought after
 Brook lampreyArctic stickleback
 Planer's lampreyBullhead
 Beaked carpWels
 Stone and river loachSunfish
 Pope (pike-perch)Spanish killifish

Of the main species listed, only 14 are actively sought after by amateur as well as professional fishermen. Many species which, from a recreational or sport point of view, could provide satisfaction for the fishermen, are obviously underfished for reasons having to do with their poor gastronomic quality or with fixed eating habits.

It should also be pointed out that the majority of French fishermen, especially as opposed to their British counterparts, normally do not throw back the fish they catch but often keep it or give it to friends and acquaintances.

Determination of Typological Relatedness

The simultaneous census of species and abiotic elements enables us to make an objective check on the part played by each of these elements in the distribution of species and to use them in estimating the theoretical typological relation to establishments. Each species may thus be associated with a biocenotype which defines its place in the overall ecosystem.

Table 1. Species in the fresh waters of France.

BleakAblette communeAlburnus alburnus Linné
Rhône shadAlose du RhôneParalosa rhodanensis Roule
Twaite shadAlose finteParalosa fallax Linné
ShadAlose grandeAlosa alosa Linné
EelAnguille communeAnguilla anguilla Linné
SculpinaApronZingel asper Linné
SilversideaAtherineAtherine mochon Cuvier et Valenciennes
BassBarLabrax lupus Cuvier
BarbelBarbeauBarbus barbus Linné
CatfishBarbeau méridionalBarbus meridionalis Risso
Black bassBlack-bassMicropterus salmoides Lacépède
Smallmouth bassBlack-bassMicropterus domolieu Lacépède
BlennyaBlennis cagnetteBlennius fluviatilis Asso
 BordelièreBlicca bjorkna Linné
BitterlingaBouvièreRhodeus amarus Linné
BreamBrèmeAbramis brama Linné
Northern pikeBrochetEsox lucius Linné
ShinerCagnette ou blennisBlennius fluviatilis Linné
GoldfishCarassinCarassius carassius Linné
Common carpCarpeCyprinus carpio Linné
BullheadChabotCottus gobio Linné
AmmocoetesChatouilleManpetra planeri Bloch
ChubChevesneLeuciscus cephalus Linné
WhitefishCorégoneCoregonus species
Lake troutCristivomerSalvelinus namaycush Walbaum
KillifishCyprinodonCyprinodon marmoratus Risso
Common smeltEperlan communOsmerus epernalus Linné
SticklebackEpinocheGasteroteus aculeatus Linné
Artic sticklebackEpinochettePygosteus pungitus Linné
SturgeonaEsturgeonAcipenser sturio Linné
FlounderFletFlesus flesus Linné
Spanish killifishFundule d'EspagneFundulus hispenicus Cuvier et Valencion
GambusiaGambusiaGambusia holbrooki Girard
RoachGardon communRutilus rutilus Linné
GudgeonGoujonGobio gobio Linné
Pope (pike-perch)GrémilleAcerina cernua Linné
Beaked carpHotuChondrotoma nasus Linné
IdeaIdeIdus idus Linné
Great lampreyLamproie de merPetromyson marinus Linné
Brook lampreyLamproie de rivièreLampreta fluviatilis Linné
Planer's lampreyLamproiede planerLampreta planeri
River loachLoche de rivièreAcanthopsis taenia Linné
Stone loachLoche francheCobitis barbatula Linné
BurbotLotteLota lota Linné
Striped mulletMuge cabotMugil cephalus Linné
Common European mulletMuge capitonMugil ramada Linné
Artic charOmble chevalierSalvelinus alpinus Linné
GraylingOmbre communThymallus thymallus Linné
PerchPerchePerca fluviatilis Linné
SunfishPerche soleilEupomotis gibbosus Linné
CatfishPoissons chatAmeirus nebulosus Lesueur
RuddRotengleScardinus erythrophtalmus Linné
PickerelSandreSander lucioperca Linné
Atlantic salmonSaumonSalmo salar Linné
Brook troutSaumon de fontaineSalvelinus fontinalis Mitchill
WelsaSilure glaneSilirus glanis Linné
SturgeonSoffieChondrostoma toxostoma Vallot
Freshwater bleakSpirlinSpirlinus bipunctalus Bloch
 SuiffeTeleses soufia Risso
TenchTancheTinca tinca Linné
Rainbow troutTruite arc-en-cielSalmo gairdneri Richardson
Brown troutTruite communeSalmo trutta Linné
FallfishVandoiseLeuciscus leuciscus Linné
MinnowVaironPhoxinus phoxinus Linné
Edible crustaceans
Torrent crayfishEcrevisse des torrentsAstacus torrentium Schrank
American crayfishEcrevisse américaineCambarus affinis Say
Common crayfishEcrevisse à pieds rougesAstacus astacus Linné
European crayfishEcrevisse à pieds blancsAstacus pallipes Lereboullet
Chinese crabCrabe chinoisEriocher sinensis

a Rare species not frequently found in French waters.

This determination may also be carried out using the make-up of the invertebrate population as a basis, but no socio-ecological classification has as yet been established for these organisms.

The density of each species and each age and size category of fish cannot exceed a “ceiling” related to the environment: physical and chemical quality of water, availability of food, shelter, etc.

Management of Fishery Resources

Management of the various species making up the natural population appears essential today, especially in the case of those species which seem the most endangered because of their special requirements or their vulnerability. This management cannot be the result of isolated or independent actions but must be organized for the species as a whole and possibly on an international level for migratory species (Atlantic salmon in particular).

This management will be accomplished through the preservation of the genetic variability of the species, and above all, through protection of the natural environments which have contributed to making the various groups genetically different from one another.

Having said this, it is only fair to admit that we have very few means at our disposal for making a satisfactory study of the fish populations, especially in large bodies of water. A number of sampling methods used in various countries were described at the symposium held at Aviemore (U.K.) on methods for protecting, supervising and assessing ichtyological resources in lakes and large streams. On the one hand, there are the traditional methods (netting, fishing by electricity, use of chemical substances, use of electric counters on dams, fish channels, traps) which, in addition to the disturbing effect they have on the environment, fail to provide a good estimate of fish populations or the biomass of large bodies of water. On the other hand, tests carried out in some large lakes, such as Lake Geneva, to evaluate the biomass using echo sounders and echo integrators, give little useful information about the fish themselves as opposed to schools of fish.

Laboratory studies on methods of detecting freshwater fish with ultrasonic equipment (carried out in 1978 by J.F. Desse, B. Escudie and J. Goubier) show that it is possible to envisage a sonar system for detecting and locating fish in freshwater streams and bodies of water (ponds, lakes, reservoirs), then, in the second stage, using this sonar system to estimate certain parameters such as the size or features which would identify the species.

Estimating the size of identifying features of the animal is related to a field called “form recognition.” The sound wave reflected back by the target passes through a filter incorporating parameters particular to the target.2

In the present state of research, it seems that even the external structure (scales) of fish and the presence of a large internal obstacle (air bladder) have an influence on the echo and can contribute to making a rough identification. This may lead to a future method for studying the environment so as to have more exact knowledge of the fish resources of our fresh waters.

2 Laboratory for Ichtyology and Signal Treatment, Catholic University of Lyon.


Some Definitions

Definition of the Act of Fishing

Neither the act of fishing nor fish itself are defined in the Rural Code, although legislative and regulatory provisions regarding river fishing are contained in the Rural Code, Book III: “Fish and Game,” Section II: “River Fishing,” articles 400 to 501.

Under French law, the act of fishing is an act or series of acts whose goal is the capture of fish living in a wild state and free, i.e., not appropriated. “Fish” is not defined by scientific criteria but, in terms of jurisprudence, as any comestible species living in fresh water and in particular, not only the different species of fish, but also crayfish and white shrimps, which are crustaceans, and frogs, which are batrachians. This means that capture of fish in land-locked waters does not constitute an act of fishing under French law.

Organization of Fishermen

Amateur fishermen practicing this sport in free waters are organized under the provisions of Article 302 of the Rural Code. They must be members of an approved fishing and piscicultural association (Association Agréée de Pêche et de Pisciculture—A.A.P.P.), and pay an annual special tax which goes entirely to pay for the costs of supervision and development of national fish resources.

The role of these approved associations is to organize supervision of fishing areas and their use, to carry out development work in fishing areas and to ensure the protection and repopulation of fish in their district. The overall organization of fishing in France is based on this first association level. What is original about this organization is basically that it makes fishermen partly responsible for looking after the environment and the various species.

Professional fishermen have a similar obligation, and must be members of a Fédération Nationale des Adjudicataires et Permissionnaires (National Federation of Lessees and Permit-holders) for net and tackle fishing on public domain. This federation also collects the special fishing tax.

The approved associations constitute a federation for each department (administrative division of France). The role of the federation is to coordinate the actions of member associations and to develop and protect departmental fish resources against poaching and pollution. It has at its disposal fishing wardens delegated by the Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche (national fisheries council), and a budget of its own, augmented on occasion by subsidies for certain projects such as creation of hatcheries, building of ponds, stocking of rivers, etc. The federations have the status of state-approved establishments.

Amateur and professional fishermen have equal representation on the Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche with local authorities concerned with fishing. Other groups consulted are the representatives of riparian owners, manufacturers and sellers of fishing equipment, national associations of specialized fishermen, fish breeders and consumers.

The Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche is classified as a national public organization having an administrative function; it has legal status and is financially autonomous, under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Quality of Life. Its two principle mandates are:

This very special and original format has the advantage of distributing responsibility between public authorities, the Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche and approved groups of fishermen.

The authorities look after policing, control and the practice of fishing in domanial streams, policing and control of fishing in private streams and the legislative, regulatory and organizational aspects of fishing.

The Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche, whose financial resources come from the fishing tax, returns all of these monies to the local fishing groups in the form of personnel put at their disposal as well as various subsidies destined to augment their own resources.

The approved fishing groups are the link between the authorities and riparian owners; they negotiate with owners of fishing rights and provide the necessary communications channel between the various national, regional and departmental authorities and the fishermen. They have ample financial resources from membership dues, the payment of which is related to payment of the annual fishing tax. In return, they must contribute to the task of supervising and developing free waters.

Profile of the French Fisherman

A survey carried out by the S.O.F.R.E.S. (Société Française d'Enquêtes par Sondage—company doing opinion polls and surveys) in June 1977, at the request of the Department of the Environment and Quality of Life, gives a profile of the French fisherman. Various social and economic factors influence the fishing demand: income, age, family status, as well as the social and professional status of the individual interviewed. Although the income data in Table 2 raises some problems (quantitatively speaking, what do families having an average annual income of less than 6 000 F represent? Who are the people who do not know their income?), it would appear that the greatest proportion of fishermen come from the higher income brackets (between 15 000 and 100 000 F) on the one hand and from the lowest income bracket on the other. Between 60 and 64% of families with a high income (50 000 F) claim to have been fishing at least once.

Table 2. Frequency of fishing by income, age, marital status and occupation.

Average annual family income francsa     
          0–3 000  481928  5100
   3 000–6 000  7413  7  6100
   6 000–10 000  671412  7100
 10 000–15 000  59181310100
 15 000–20 000  54171811100
 20 000–30 000  48202012100
 30 000–50 000  45202411100
 50 000–100 000  40272013100
 Over 100 000  363520  9100
 Don't know  602112  7100
 Average  49202011100
Age of respondent     
 Under 5 years  3466  0  0100
   5–14100  0  0  0100
 14–18  273529  9100
 18–21  512021  8100
 21–25  45222310100
 25–35  41232511100
 35–45  45222112100
 45–55  48212011100
 55–65  54201511100
 65–75  601615  9100
 Over 75  701211  7100
Marital status     
 Bachelor  502220  8100
 Married  45222211100
 Widow  701310  7100
 Divorced  41282011100
 Farmers  601815  7100
 Agricultural workers  29203322100
 Industrialists  24353011100
 Top management  25302917100
 Middle management  34262515100
 Office workers  53201710100
 Manual workers  44202313100
 Professionals  40272017100
 Inactive  13562023100
 Average  50202010100

a June 1977 value of franc $0.2135, or approximately 5F = $1.00 (translator).

The age data seem paradoxical: it would appear that the greatest number of French fishermen are between 21 and 55, yet it is schoolchildren, students and retired people who have the most free time; nevertheless, 52 to 55% of those interviewed in this age said they had been fishing at least once in their lives.

Basically, the fisherman is an individual who is, or has been, married; 55% of husbands had fished at least once, as had almost 60% of divorcés.

Fishermen come from very different social backgrounds. The greatest number are agricultural workers and those who do not work (retired people, students and school-children); 22 and 23% respectively. It should be noted that managers often fish (17% of top management and 15% of middle management fish regularly); this seems surprising at first glance, but it is a factor which should be considered in the development of recreational fishing.

In addition to this survey, which covered a national sampling which may not be entirely representative, a number of surveys have been carried out recently at the local level among certain groups of fishermen: 4 streams in the Côtes-du-Nord (department in Brittany); Val Joly Lake (in the Nord department in northern France); Scorf River (Brittany); and Mont Lozère-Bouges du Nord region (Massif Central).

These studies bring out the following points:

Evolution of Amateur Fishing in France

Although in the past, angling as a sport was mainly practiced only by those who lived near fishing areas or by those who had sufficient leisure time and income to practise this sport, a rise in the standard of living has enabled a growing number of people to begin fishing. This explains the change in the nature of fishing, and also shows the necessity of adapting regulations and implementing effective management of the country's fishery resources.

Various Fishing Methods

Angling has ceased to be an easy-going, sedentary activity and is now more active and competitive, both because of the physical effort required when it involves seeking out and capturing carnivorous fish and because of the skill required in using the most recently developed equipment. Although angling was traditionally practised with a hook and line, and later with a rod and float and eventually a reel, several other methods are presently in fashion, some of the more common are:

Ground-bait fishing or “pitch” fishing corresponds to the type traditionally practised by most French fishermen. In fishing terminology, a “pitch” is a place where certain species of fish prefer to gather, generally because bait has been laid. The fisherman at a “pitch” does not move from place to place. He generally uses a floating line (hook and bait supported by a floater).

Cast-fishing is considered by many as the most sport-like and is attracting more and more fishermen. The cast fisherman is not stationary like the “pitch” fisherman. He explores the river looking for fish, mainly salmonidae and carnivorous fish.

Fly-fishing is increasingly popular. Basically, fly-fishing involves convincing the fish that a fly (dry or wet) is floating down the river, following the movement of the water.

The last two techniques are considered as active “sport fishing,” since they often call for covering long distances. An I.N.S.E.E. (French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) survey shows that 74% of fishermen fish with a floating line, 13% by casting, 2% with flies and 9,5% with other methods (net, troll, bottom line).

Fishing with tackle: a small number of amateur (or pseudo-amateur) fishermen practise fishing with nets or tackle in domanial streams and particularly in estuaries.

Tourist Fishing in France

“Tourist” fishermen are those who do not live in the region and come to fish only during weekends or vacations, as opposed to local fishermen who live in the area. According to the SOFRES survey, see above, the proportion of annual fishing permits sold to tourists by the approved fishing associations is as follows:

33,2% of associations sold 15% or less of their permits to “tourist fishermen”,

26,5% of associations sold 16–30% of their permits to “tourists”,

25,9% sold over 30% of their permits to “tourists”.

These figures demonstrate the importance of fishing in tourist development.

Of the 92 federations, 86 feel that fishing could be an important factor in tourism development in their department. Only 38,6% of associations are seeking to increase the number of tourist fishermen, against 51,7% who are not. The two reasons given by the latter for limiting the increase in tourist fishing are:

Those associations who are seeking to increase the number of tourist fishermen use the following methods (based on 970 associations):

Advertising (posters, folders)19,1%
River improvement12,7%
Reciprocal agreements and favorable financial conditions10,4%
Publicity (contests, etc.)9,9%

In the opinion of the associations, tourist fishermen choose a fishing area for the following reasons:

Family or friends in the region69,4%
Quality of scenery58,0%
Quality of fishing40,8%
Quality of hospitality19,3%
Other recreational opportunities11,3%

The principal motivation of the tourist fishermen is thus less the fishing itself than family or other connections in the area. Only 28% of those interviewed said they chose a vacation spot because of the fishing.

Annual family income seems to be a determining factor in choice of a fishing area:

Average annual family incomeFree-water fishingFishing in landlocked waters
(ponds, lakes, gravel pits, etc.)
(000 francs)(%)(%)
Less than 35714,0
3–669  8,7
6–1073  7,1
Over 10043  7,2

Increase in average annual income seem to go hand-in-hand with a decrease in free-water fishing. In the case of land-locked waters, the statistics do not show any appreciable difference linked to income. On the average, 14% of those interviewed said they fished in these waters. On the other hand, 50% of households questioned whose annual income was greater than 100 000 F practised deep-sea fishing (which does not appear in the above table). This would seem to indicate that freshwater fishing is a rather plebian sport.

One of the main characteristics of the demand for tourist fishing is that it tends to be concentrated in time, so that demand is very seasonal. The busiest period for tourist fishing, according to 77% of the fishing associations, is in July and August, while around 45% of fishing associations estimate that demand by local fishermen extends over 7 months, from March to September (in Category 1 waters). The number of days fished per year (in percentage) are:

Number of daysIn summerOutside of summer vacation
Less than 52540
30–5013  9
More than 50  7

The greatest number of fishermen (tourists as well as local fishermen) fish in the summer. Outside the summer vacation period, 50% of fishermen fish occasionally (less than 20 days). The 16% who fish for at least 30 days outside the summer period are highly motivated fishermen.

The present system of permits means that the fisherman who changes fishing areas has to take out a new permit (unless there is a reciprocal agreement); this does not encourage the development of tourist fishing.

To meet the summer demand, a system of temporary permits has been developed, that is, permits for a day or a week (at least in certain land-locked waters or enclosed fishing ponds). In free waters, the fisherman must also hold an annual permit issued by one of the approved fishing associations and bearing a tax stamp.

A Typical Tourist Fisherman: The Parisian. According to a study carried out in 1974 by the C.E.A.M.3 and the I.N.D.A.R.3 at the request of the Department of Agriculture, the Parisian fisherman may be described as an individual who travels with his family, is fairly young (average 38 years old) and whose financial resources permit him to practice this sport. He fishes for about 50 days a year, during which time he spends 500 francs on buying and maintaining his equipment, as well as spending 80 to 140 francs per weekend for a period of 50 days (25 weekends), for a total outlay of 2 000 to 3 500 francs. This fisherman frequents public and private fishing areas of the approved fishing associations and is not particularly attracted by areas which are too highly developed and where fish are abundant but too easy to catch. 37% of Parisian fishermen would like to fish outside of France. The fish sought by these fishermen are carnivorous and cyprinid fish (49,5% of fishermen), Salmonidae (36,7%) and salt-water fish (14,8%), in that order.

3 C.E.A.M.—Comité d'Etude d'Aménagement du Morvan (Committee to Study Development in the Morvan Area of the Massif Central). I.N.D.A.R.-Institut National de Développement et d'Aménagement Rural (National Institute for Rural Development and Planning).

Evolution of Number of Fishermen

According to the statistics of the Conseil Supérieur de la Pêche, the number of people paying the special fishing tax is about 2 600 000 (1975 figures); over recent years, the numbers developed as follows:

YearNumber of fishing permits sold

If we taken into account those fishermen who are exempted from paying fees (children under 16, wives, military personnel on leave, etc.) this gives a total of about 4 million amateur fishermen in France, or one fisherman per 12–13 people, and this figure has been fairly constant in recent years.

If the total number of fishermen appears constant, pressure of fishing activity has nevertheless greatly increased due to the greater mobility of each fisherman (increase in the number of cars and development of the network of highways and secondary roads, linked to increased use of machines in agriculture and forestry). This pressure is increased even more by the fact that the total area where fishing can be practised tends to decrease due to pollution or other problems or to private restrictions of areas where fishing was formerly permitted. In addition, this pressure is distributed in a very irregular fashion between Category 1 rivers, where Salmonidae are particularly sought after in all regions, and the Category 2 rivers where cyprinids are only actively sought after in certain regions, i.e. those where Category 1 rivers are not very numerous.

The SOFRES study indicates that 77% of the federations could absorb an increase in the number of fishermen. The increase would be especially in Category 2 waters and would depend, according to the associations, on a number of measures: re-stocking, protection of spawning-grounds, improvement of fishing areas, etc.

Before looking at development of recreational fishing, it might be necessary to examine the conditions in which amateur fishing is practised in France.

Availability of Fishing Area

The types of fishing areas covered directly by the federations or by their member fishing associations are as in Table 3. The division of streams into two categories is determined by decrees based on the predominance or the protection of trout for Category 1 (see The Environment). The distribution is the following, based on the associations:

all Category 1: 35,4% of associations;
all Category 2: 43,5%;
mixed: 20,1%;
not clearly defined: 1,0%.

Table 3. Fishing areas covered by federations or associations.

 Length of banks in kmArea of lakes and ponds in ha
Free watersLand-locked or enclosed watersTotal Free watersLand-locked or enclosed waters Total
Grand total345 9062 570348 476118 00026 748114 808a
Total in %99,20,8100,081,518,5100,0

a Plus 30 000 ha of marshes in the Loire-Atlantique department.

Type of Ownership and Consequences (SOFRES Survey)

The proportion of private property in the total fishing areas is quite large in the case of rivers as well as lakes and ponds.

 RiversLakes and ponds
Public domain12,4%42,0%
Property of federations and associations5,4*2,5
Private domain82,255,5

* At first glance, this figure seems over-estimated.

Competitive bidding for lease of fishing rights on private property makes it more and more difficult for the associations to keep a hold on fishing areas in a large part of France. In addition, some owners prefer to fish their property themselves, especially in land-locked waters where the fishing tax is not imposed.

Reciprocal Agreements (SOFRES Survey)

Reciprocal agreements have been negotiated by 42,6% of the fishing associations (i.e., exchange of fishing rights held) within a department (permit issued by the federation). Next are agreements within a fisheries club (19,3%), which is a group of several federations, thus favouring reciprocity between departments (26 at present). In those departments where there is no agreement at the federation level, 18,6% of the associations have concluded reciprocal agreements with one or more neighboring associations.

Fishing Conditions

Degree of Statisfaction of Fishermen (SOFRES Survey)

In spite of much criticism regarding the decrease in the number of fish taken, the relative tameness of fish and the decrease in the sport aspect of fishing because of deterioration of fishing areas, Table 4 below would seem to indicate that a relatively large number of people are satisfied.

Species Sought After—Mentality of Fishermen

Almost everything depends on the fisherman. For J. Arrignon (1976), some people have a “water sense” which makes for intelligent observation of the aquatic environment. Others, who seek a means of escape through contact with the natural environment, do not have this “water sense”; they seek above all some contact with the animal sought and have a possessive instinct: they want fish and lots of it. The first group are best suited by rivers and ponds in a very natural state, with fish populations maintained by basic enrichment; this allows the fisherman to pit his skills against wild fish or fish which have been allowed to return to a wild state, living in an environment adapted to their ecological needs. The other group needs regularly re-stocked streams and lakes with ready-to-catch fish, easy access and organized tourist facilities including additional recreational activities.

Generally speaking, the most sought-after fish in ponds are, apart from “white” fish (cyprinids), certain carnivorous fish like the pike, that the fisherman can catch in sufficient quantities, but which are not too easily caught, since an easy catch is not always appreciated.

The increase in the number of fishermen who pay a supplement to be allowed to catch Salmonidae and carnivorous fish is a good indication of the popularity of these species.

Table 4. Satisfaction levels of fishermen (%).

Association members appearNumber of fish taken“Wild” nature of fishNatural environmentDevelopment of fishing areas
Very satisfied11,527,645,810,7
Fairly satisfied66,343,836,844,1
Not very or not at all satisfied17,9  8,4  5,322,7
No reply  4,320,212,122,5

YearNumber of supplementary taxes paid
1950  308815
1955  613679
1960  857366

Thus, almost 70% of fishermen now pay the supplementary tax.

The number of “salmon” stamps sold annually, although increasing slightly (2 586 in 1950, 3 353 in 1975), remains small, corresponding to the relative scarcity of this species in French streams.

Price of Permits

In spite of constant increases linked with a general rise in prices, the cost of fishing taxes and permits remains low. Most of the time, the total amount paid is less than 100F, or, for the 50 fishing days described earlier, less than 2F per day.

Riparian Rights and Organized Fishing Trails

Present regulations, which date back to 1789, give fishing rights to riparian owners, which does not encourage cordial relations between fishermen and property owners in many regions.

Erection of barriers without warning is increasingly frequent, which does not make for good fishing conditions and development. It is very difficult to develop and stock a river rationally when certain riparian owners reserve fishing rights for themselves (this question is particularly acute as regards salmon-fishing in Brittany).

To partially remedy this problem, some federations have bought or leased banks and created organized trails where:

If these developments (called pre-tourist trails) are strictly supervised and managed, they offer a recreational opportunity greatly appreciated by certain categories of fishermen, especially in urban areas.

Effect of External Factors on Fishing Conditions

Pollution: The approved fishing associations are conscious of this phenomenon. Asked what were the two main reasons that could limit the number of fishermen in their association's area, most put pollution first (37,4%). Fishermen were the first to call attention to the seriousness of water pollution.

It is a fact that fish occupy a special place because of their position in the food chain (upper trophic levels). They depend on other aquatic organisms for food, shelter and reproduction and immediately react to any threat to these organisms due to even very slight or insidious alterations in the environment.

Large Construction Projects: Apart from pollution, other factors can have a far-reaching effect on fishing conditions. These include large projects such as dams, gravel and ballast pits, hydraulic clean-up and development without proper precautions.

Fishery Management

Need for Managing Recreational Fisheries

Traditionally a means of gathering food, fishing has now become a new and significant social reality. The number of fishermen and fishing pressure have increased considerably, at the same time the demand for water for domestic, industrial and agricultural needs has accelerated. Proper management of recreational fishing appears necessary for the following reasons:

The economic value of this recreational activity, although difficult to establish, is certainly great. The amount spent on fishing, directly or indirectly, is certainly more than 5 millions francs a year. In addition, fishing could be developed as a tourist attraction, which would prevent French fishermen from going abroad to fish and might even attract increased numbers of European fishermen to France.

Conditions Necessary for Implementing a Management Program

Total development of river fishing would entail:

  1. Establishment of close links between the authorities and fishing federations or associations and better information available to their officials so that fishermen may be truly informed.

  2. Seeking ways to increase financial resources for fishing.

  3. Promulgation of a series of legislative and regulatory measures destined to increase fish protection.

  4. A change in the nature of technical operations. At the present time, typical spending by fishing associations is distributed as follows (SOFRES survey):

    Cost of stocking and replenishment of the fish population, of which   74%
    - from fishing association hatcheries
    - from commercial hatcheries
    Cost of maintaining and improving fishing areas   26%

    An important point here is the large proportion of restocking costs incurred by the associations where 72% of the supply comes from commercial sources. This table does not include non-monetary advantages from federations to associations in the form of free assistance in stocking and replenishment. The proportion devoted to maintenance and improvement of fishing areas seems too small, as it is much more important to improve the habitat of fish and favor their natural reproduction than to restock systematically, which is costly, inefficient and may even carry some danger of epidemic. It should be specified that, according to the SOFRES survey, only 32% of the associations had carried out maintenance and improvement work during the past three years.

  5. Progress in the conditions of producing fish for repopulation. Various piscicultural techniques have been developed to supply the fish required for stocking; these fish have received preventive treatment and were nourished entirely by artificial means; they are incapable of becoming integrated into the natural environment and serve only to be recaptured immediately (put and take). We are thus seeing the gradual development of breeding operations linked to the specific needs of recreational fishing, that is, selection of “wild” breeding stock and growth of fry in nursery-creeks or stocking channels. This development could be promoted through the 204 fish hatcheries operated by federations or fishing associations (SOFRES survey) which normally should not have the same profitability requirements as those in the commercial sector. It should be mentioned here that:

25 federations operate no hatcheries26%
67 federations operate at least one70%
50 federations operate up to 476,2%
16 federations operate 5 or more23,8%

The proportions of various species produced are:

74% produce mainly or exclusively Salmonidae;

13% produce mainly or exclusively carnivorous fish;

12% produce mainly or exclusively cyprinids. Share of total replenishment assumed by federation-owned hatcheries:
in 24 departments, this share is at least 90%;
in 13 departments, it is between 40 and 90%;
in 63 departments, the share is less than 40%.

The fishing and fish-breeding federations have expressed the wish that hatcheries be created at the federation level to obtain economies of scale and, above all, better adaptation to the natural conditions of each department, as well as a superior product to that supplied by commercial hatcheries. As regards nursery-creeks, 65% of the federations operate one or more, for a total length of 1055 km. Of the 35% of federations who do not have nursery-creeks, the majority of them do not intend to create any or are unable to do so (absence of trout-bearing rivers). This situation will not change very much, since it is those departments who already have nursery streams who will continue to develop this network.


Policy on fishing as outlined has two main lines:

  1. Education of fisherman aimed at better integration into the natural environment of which they are privileged users, so they may see fish more as a convenience than as a source of food.

  2. Knowledge and development of the natural environment so as to preserve its balance, in spite of pressure by users, fishermen and others, whose interests apparently differ.

At a time when we hear so much about the Leisure Society, but when the only factors that count are those than can be quantified, it appears essential to attempt to estimate the economic value of a recreational field like fishing, in spite of the difficulties inherent in such an approach.


H. Kühlmann


Three resources are used for fisheries: ocean water, artificial inland waters (ponds, basins, and storage-lakes etc.) and natural inland waters.

Ocean waters are mainly fished by commercial fishermen. In addition there are about 110 cutters, which are specially arranged for sport fishing in the open sea. In the two coastal states of the Federal Republic of Germany 5–30% of the sport fishermen occasionally or more often (~ 10 times a year) make use of them, in many cases encouraged by the possibility of tax- and duty-free shopping. Not all of the cutters are in operation throughout the year. The total annual expenditures for gear, boat, subscription, travelling, etc., range from 400–700 DM per angler (11–19 million DM in total).

Artificial inland waters are mainly operated by fish farmers, who in addition often stock gravel-extraction lakes—mainly with rainbow trout—and sell fishing licenses. Water reservoirs are often fished by both commercial and sport fishermen. With an annual value of 71 million DM, the production of the fish farmers is 3,5 times higher than the production of the commercial river and lake fishery. An increasing number of hobby-pond farmers are nowadays producing 25% (~2000 tons) of the whole trout production in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The number of commercial river and lake fishermen has decreased from 1962 to 1972, due to pollution and increasing public use of inland waters, by more than 30%, the number of commercial river fishermen even by more than 40%. The number of sport fishermen has increased at the same time and is still increasing in spite of the stagnant population of the Federal Republic of Germany. The total catch of the sport fishermen (~8 000 tons) is even higher than the total catch of the commercial fishermen in this area, and theoretically has a value to ~ 30 million DM. But sport fishermen are not allowed to sell their catch, and in consequence this value has to be rated a little less. Considering the overall national economic aspect, the recreational fishery is even more important due to the money spent by sport fishermen for gear, boats, subscriptions, travelling, accomodation, etc., which can be assessed at a total annual expenditure of 250–300 million DM. Sport fishing is regarded as a respected leisure time activity, as a contribution to human welfare, a source of tourism and as an important contribution to nature protection and cultivation of the landscape.


Proprietary Authority

Fisheries are owned either by the federal or state governments or by communities, associations of sport fishermen or private persons. Owners of fisheries are often organized in the form of associations. The owners are free to decide who can use the fishery and at what price. There are only few places where fishing is “free,” i.e, where angling can be practised with a normal licence without being a member of an association of sport fishermen. This is, for example, the case in the territorial coastal waters of the Baltic and North-Sea.

Legislative Authority

Legislation for inland fisheries is normally in the realm of the single state governments; laws and decrees are enacted on this political level, normally by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry or respective ministries. Complementary regulations are enacted by the district governments.

Operational Management

The state ministries for Food, Agriculture and Forestry are the highest fishery authorities. In addition there are subordinated offices at district and community level. Direct supervision is done by the police and public fishery inspectors. In the scope of official laws and decrees, associations of sport fishermen have additional regulations, which are often more rigorous especially with respect to minimum sizes of fishes free for catch. The fishery authorities mentioned above have jurisdication for both commercial and sport fishing. Sport fishing is promoted by governments by means of financial aid for stocking (only in cases of public interest) and for development of water resources for the sport fishery. Private persons, who normally are delegated by associations of sport fishermen, are trained in the fields of fishery biology, ecology, legislation, etc., with governmental promotion. Marinas and piers which are mostly constructed for sport and shipping uses are modestly used by sport fishermen. Very seldom are such installations constructed especially for sport fishing purposes.

Private Sector Involvement

As revealed by a questionnaire, the money spent by anglers amounts to 250–300 million DM each year. About 100 million DM of this are spent for boats and gear. The average annual subscription fee to sport fishing associations is about 100 DM, i.e., a total of some 89 million DM is paid for membership each year. About 20% of this is spent for stocking materials, and some 70% for renting the fisheries. Travelling, accomodations, short-time licences, renting of lodges, participation on organized angling-trips, chartering cutters for ocean sport fishing, etc., are other possibilities for private enterprise to make a profit from sport fishing.

There are private sport fishing journals and an official one, which is related to the Federal Fisheries Association (Deutscher Fischereiver-band E.V., Union der Berufs- und Sport-fischer). Besides this there are official papers of the regional fishery associations of the individual states.

Angler Involvement

Most anglers (differing in the different states between 30 and 80%) are organized in societies; about 90% of these societies are organized in associations. The associations are heard on legal matters. These organisations provide for fishing possibilities not only for members, but also for non-members to whom licences are sold. Fishing societies in addition to governmental regulations usually do regulate their fisheries by various means, such as effort regulations, minimum sizes, closed season, etc. They are also responsible for information and public relations.

The catch of sport fishermen is estimated at some 8 000 ton, i.e., ~2% of the total fish catch. Sport fishermen are not allowed to sell their catch.

Fishery Management and Coordination Arrangements and Mechanisms

There are no advisory and coordinating committee to coordinate private and public interest on a legislative base. Governmental offices and institutions give advice in some cases. Coordination is done by the organisations.

Ranking Recreational Fishery Problems and Opportunities

The number of sport fishermen is increasing at a rate of 2–5% annually. The area which can be fished by these fishermen is rather constant and can only scarcely be expanded by making available new gravel extraction lakes and artificial ponds. The possibilities for fishing in general are restricted by pollution, shipping traffic, aquatic sports and technical alterations of natural waters that have not sufficiently considered ecological aspects. Often, regular conservation and management of waters is difficult due to the many existing fishing rights which are not easily coordinated.

Commercial fishermen guarantee the fishing value of waters, i.e., as far as possible a natural balanced fish-stock, whereas the interest of sport fishermen very often is focused on certain species and big-sized fishes. Cooperation between commercial fishermen and sport fishermen is needed to reconsider the future use of inland waters in which both interests are represented, not only in the scope of commercial production, but also of ecological and sociopolitical aspects.


Administrating authorities are responsible for all fishery concerns, commercial and recreational. There is a hierarchy in the coordination of the authorities of the different administrative levels. Highest authorities are the Ministries for Food, Agriculture and Forestry of the states and the federal government, respectively. A similar hierarchy, but not as strict as in the political administration, is to be seen in the “private” organisation of the associations of sport fishermen. The associations of sport fishermen of the single states as well as the organisations of the commercial fishermen are represented in the German Fisheries Association (Deutscher Fischereiverband E.F., Union der Berufs- und Sport-fischer).


A commercial fisherman earns more than 50% of his livelihood by fishing. In some states (Länder) those fishermen who spend more than 50% of their working time in the fishery are recognized as commercial fishermen, too. People who, in addition to their main job, want to fish for commercial reasons have to ask for a special licence. Fishing activities other than these two are defined as sport fishing (angling).

All fishes sought by sport fishermen are edible and are eaten, except bait fishes and some marine species (dog fish, etc.), so principally food and game fish are identical. In most states a precondition for sport fishing is the official sport fishing licence. The annual fee for this is between 5–10 DM. This licence authorizes sport fishing in coastal waters. If sport fishermen want to fish inland waters, they have to buy an additional licence from the owner of the fishery. The tax for this licence is between 5–30 DM for a 1-day licence and 100–500 DM for a 1-year licence.

Principally in most of the states a sport fishing examination is obligatory for obtaining licences, even private ones. This is often true also for membership in a sportfishing association.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page