09 February 2012 by Jessica Boston and Mark Plant
Fishing for a holiday in France this year?
France is a great destination for all types of angling with sea fishing on the coast and fly fishing on many rivers, but it’s lakes in France that cause the most excitement offering the opportunity to fish for giant carp that we just don’t get here in Britain. We talked to fisherman Mark Plant, owner of ‘Hunters Retreat’ in the Loire, about fishing holidays in France and how to bag that monster carp.
France offers a range of options for fishing holidays to suit everyone from complete beginners to experienced carp anglers. Whether you want to dedicate a week to fishing with a “drive and survive” break under canvas or just try out the sport as part of a holiday with family or friends, the chance of catching a carp weighing over 60lb is a tantalizing reality.
There are two types of lake you can visit, public lakes, which are state owned and run or privately managed lakes.
In general public lakes tend to be larger than private ones, but they can still get busy as anyone with a valid license can fish them. There are also restrictions with night fishing and bait boating being strictly prohibited and no guarantee of quality fish stocks.
Facilities can be extremely basic and there may not even be toilets on site. If you choose to fish the public lakes don’t forget to buy a license from a local bar or tabac.
Lakes are usually 4 or 5 acres in size, the number of anglers on the lake is restricted and fishing is allowed 24 hours a day to maximise your opportunity.
There are usually toilets and showers available and good private lakes will also offer bait rooms where you can mix and store bait to keep it in good condition. Some private lakes even offer accommodation such as a mobile home, gite or villa on the lakeside making an angling holiday suitable for the whole family.
Fishing season – When to travel
There is no restriction on carp fishing in France so you can fish all year round. Early Spring and Autumn are the prime fishing seasons for catching the largest fish, and whilst a warm summer may make for a pleasant holiday, hotter weather does not provide the best fishing conditions.
It is worth noting that some private lakes may close for the winter re-opening in April to allow the fish to rest and breed in peace.
Fishing licenses and costs
A ‘Carte Annuelle’ for an adult costs between €70 and €100 but for a one off trip choose a ‘Carte Vacances’ at around €30 for a week.
A license is issued to you personally and you may require photo ID. You can buy licenses from a tabac or sports shop near your chosen lake, or online at Cartdepeche.fr but note that the site is so far only available in French language.
Big dreams… bigger fish!
Mark Plant is a keen carp fisherman who moved to France in a quest to fulfill his lifelong ambition of owning carp lakes. Having been bitten by the fishing bug at an early age catching tiddlers in a local pool aged just 5, Mark soon became a fan of carp fishing and pursued this with a personal best catch in England of 13lb.
Keen to turn his hobby into a business by owning and managing his own carp lakes, Mark and his partner Pam Hunter made the bold move of buying their first lake in France 11 years ago. “The cost of lakes in the UK is prohibitively expensive and the opportunities for the sport are just so much more exciting in France” says Mark “Not to mention the better weather and the French lifestyle”.
Mark and Pam now own ‘Hunters Retreat’, 17 acres of the Loire countryside including two gites each with its own small lake, and a large 5 acre lake containing fish weighing over 45lb. Mark’s biggest catch to date in France is a 58lb carp!
“It’s very addictive” remarks Pam “In the UK carp usually only reach 20-30lbs in size and France offers fish that are over 60lbs! Once they’ve caught a really big carp here they want to come back again and again to repeat the experience and try and better it, UK carp fishing just doesn’t measure up anymore.
Our first visitors of the season last year were Jason and his family, they stayed in the mobile home by our 5 acre lake and he was able to fish 12 hours a day whilst his family enjoyed a relaxing holiday. His best UK catch was around 12lb and on the second or third day of the holiday he caught a 44lb fish!
We weren’t surprised when he booked to come again in August with his father in law, and on that trip his best catch was about 42lb. It’s an incredible experience to catch a fish that size”.
Planning and preparation
However it’s not easy to bag a monster carp, it takes skill, luck and planning.
First you need to choose your destination lake.
Most anglers choose one lake and set up at a chosen ‘swim’ for the duration of their stay (anything from a weekend to a week is typical). You need to consider the lake itself, choosing a large lake with the biggest fish in it may seem the obvious answer, but for beginners starting smaller is a smart move.
The giant carp are wily fish and each will only be landed once or twice in a year. They grow accustomed to baits and tackle and know what to avoid so catching them can be harder than you would think. Smaller carp are keen to grow and feed more prolifically making them an easier prospect for the novice angler.
When selecting a lake you would also do well to enquire about the presence of common pests that can blight your fishing experience, crayfish and ‘poisson chat’ can eat bait and tangle or sever your hooks and lines in the process. If you are visiting a private lake the owners should be able to reassure you about this if you ask.
Take the bait!
The other main thing to consider is your bait and tackle.
There are fishing suppliers in France but overwhelmingly the advice is to bring your own equipment from the UK where it is cheaper and more readily available.
Pack a range of different baits, flavoured boilies and terminal tackle to give yourself the best chance of finding a winning combination. Some private lakes offer sheds and refrigeration for storing and making up bait so check ahead if you will need these facilities.
For a first time or casual angler you may want to enquire about hiring your tackle from the private lake owners before investing heavily in your new hobby.
And don’t forget to bring stronger rods and line than you would usually need in the UK if you are hoping to land a trophy size fish!
Fantastic holidays for fishermen…and friends!
The unique opportunities for fishing in France are matched by wonderful food and wine available in the restaurants, bakeries and markets of each picturesque village and town in France, gorgeous scenery and historic buildings to visit and plenty of activities from water sports to hiking and horse riding … suddenly a dream holiday for the avid angler can be a dream holiday for the rest of the family too!
Top tips for a carp fishing holiday in France:
1. Do your research Choose a private lake that is right for your ability and remember to check for exclusivity, types and sizes of fish to expect, absence of pests and what facilities and equipment (if any) will be available to you.
2. B.Y.O Bring tackle and bait with you from the UK. Don’t forget to plan your rod and line for the maximum weight of fish expected.
3. Mix it up Remember that the bigger fish will be harder to catch and a make sure you have lots of different baits to try. Boilies come in an astounding array of flavours so why not try something new? You will also need a selection of ground bait, pulses, nuts and pellets to maximise your chances.
4. Night fishing Fishing at night means you are more likely to catch the bigger fish, they start feeding in the early evening so make a night of it fishing under the stars with a glass or two of the excellent local wine.
5. There’s more to France than fish! Even the most avid angler should take a moment to sample the local culture with a trip to a restaurant or market; failing that bring friends and family who can forage for delicious cheeses and pastries to bring back for you while you ‘sit on your rods’!
Many thanks to Mark for his time to help produce this article. If you’re looking for a fishing holiday, be sure to check out ‘Hunters Retreat’ on Holiday France Direct.