Legal aspects of fishing in France

image Night fishing for carp in France is fairly well regulated activity. The country is divided into ~ 95 departments and each of them has its own fishing federation: a governing body for all fishing activities. You can find details and links to each of the federations here. Every year regulations regarding night fishing for carp as well as the list of venues where it is allowed are updated. The venues change from year to year: not massively, but limits of the “night zones” may change as well as some other intricacies: times of the year (or week) when fishing particular venue is allowed, use of boats, required reservations (if any) etc.
Each of the federations have their own “rod license” and you can buy a temporary (weekly) one in almost every “tabac” shop in France. This is all well and good if you are interested in fishing waters of a particular department on a short holiday. For those who plan more than one trip or want to fish across departments, a yearly “interfederale” card is the best option. The card runs from January till December and can be purchased online at At the time of writing, the card for an adult costs ca ~110 Euro.
The organisation of French federations makes it rather difficult to find a carp fishing venue on a whim: first you need to select a department where you would like to fish, then find the web page of the appropriate federation and finally find where night fishing for carp is allowed. You also need to take into consideration particular “bylaws” and local oddities. Repeat the process 95 times and you will have a fairly good idea where to fish. Alternatively, you can become a subscriber at and simplify this process greatly, as our maps include all of the French night fishing zones, their opening times and local regulations.
The fact that you have bought your carte de peche, found the venue where the night fishing is allowed, is just the first step. There are multiple other things to consider:

  • Time if the year: not all of the night fishing zones are “open” all year round. Some departments have time limits, e.g. night fishing may be allowed from 01st of March till 31st of October.
  • Some night zones operate only on certain days of the week, e.g. Friday evening to Monday morning.
  • Many departments limit use of baits to particles (or generally plant based origin, whatever it means)
  • Some venues apply limit of how much bait can be used daily for pre-baiting
  • Use of boats may be restricted
  • Use of petrol outboards may be restricted
  • You may be not allowed to fish beyond certain distance from the bank
  • The venue may require prior reservation
  • There may be department specific extras to pay for night fishing
  • Your swim may need to be illuminated at night

Those regulations or “byelaws” as indicated earlier are federation and venue specific. Wherever you decide to go, make sure you know them well.
Some of the byelaws may seem confusing, so let's have a closer look at the most common ones:
Use of sacks or retainers
Retaining carp in captivity (in sacks or retainers) in the hours of darkness is prohibited across all of France. Some federations insist on immediate release of caught fish regardless of the time of the day. This particular regulation is part of the environemental law intended to prevent theft of fish and violating it may prove to be expensive if caught by “Garde Peche”.
Use of plant based baits
The rationale for this is to prevent pike and other predator anglers from fishing at night. Plant based baits cover particles and boilies, but use of worms or live or dead animal baits is universally prohibited.
Night time signalisation of angler's presence
There are two reasons for this requirement: fishing on the banks of canals or towpaths may lead to accidents at night when pedestrians or cyclists crash into angler's gear. Another practical purpose is to prevent conflicts with pike anglers who generally have strong speeding tendencies. Illuminated swim signals presence of carp angler and other users of water generally slow down when aware of this fact.
In the next section we look at the all-important “research” aspect of public water fishing: finding venues and information about them.