ATLANTIC SALMON IN FRANCE: CHASING THE ONE.

Atlantic salmon fishing in France is primarily carried out in the French Brittany region and the westernmost departments of the Pyrenees. Salmon populations are declining in many French rivers, despite efforts to restore their numbers; currently, this species is considered vulnerable according to the IUCN. Nevertheless, fishing for Atlantic salmon is still permitted in the country.

WHERE TO FISH FOR ATLANTIC SALMON IN FRANCE AND AUTHORIZATION FOR MIGRATORY FISHING

Atlantic salmon fishing is possible in the following departments of France: Calvados (14), Côtes-d’Armor (22), Finistère (29), Ille-et-Vilaine (35), Landes (40), La Manche (50), Morbihan (56), Pas-de-Calais (62), Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), Seine-Maritime (76), and Somme (80).

Migratory authorization and permits can be obtained in the following departments: Calvados (14), Côtes d’Armor (22), Eure (27), Finistère (29), Ille-et-Vilaine (35), Landes (40), La Manche (50), Morbihan (56), Orne (61), Pas-de-Calais (62), Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), Seine-Maritime (76), and Somme (80).

The “migratory” supplement or migratory authorization is used to fund the protection of migratory fish. This 50-euro supplement includes a specific Aquatic Environment Protection Fee (RMA) for migratory fish, allocating 20 euros to water agencies and 30 euros to migratory associations for protection actions.

In addition to the above, since 1987, Atlantic salmon fishermen must report each non-released catch to the National Center for Salmonid Catch Identification (CNICS). This catch declaration serves as a tool to manage and protect the vulnerable Atlantic salmon population, listed on France’s endangered species red list.

Fly fishing in France

LIFE CYCLE OF SALMON IN FRANCE

The Atlantic salmon undergoes a fascinating life cycle in France. It is born in gravel-rich river areas, where its parents engage in reproduction, typically occurring in spring. Subsequently, they spend 1-2 years in freshwater until reaching a size of around 20 cm. At this point, they acquire a silvery appearance and migrate in groups to saltwater in April-May.

In the Atlantic Ocean, some individuals head towards Ireland, while others venture to the Faroe Islands or waters west of Greenland, where they spend 14 to 36 months. Guided by celestial, solar, and terrestrial magnetic orientation, as well as their olfactory memory, they return to the estuaries of their native river. These fish make their way back to their spawning grounds from November to January, initiating the reproductive process.

Fly fishing in France

EVOLUTION OF SALMON POPULATIONS IN FRANCE

The current salmon populations in France have experienced a decline since the onset of industrialization. Specifically, the primary causes of this decline were the construction of dams, water pollution, and intensive fishing off the coasts of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. As a consequence of this continued decline, since 2010, salmon has been classified as a “vulnerable species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Despite this, catch-and-kill salmon fishing is still permitted in the majority of rivers in France, with strict measures for recording and marking specimens, aimed at monitoring at the end of the season.

Simultaneously, and in an effort to reverse the situation, various restocking programs exist in several river basins, such as the Rhine, the Armorican Massif, the Loire, and the Garonne-Dordogne, showing some effectiveness in these endeavors to recover salmon populations.

IMPORTANT PARAMETERS FOR SALMON FISHING IN FRANCE

If you’re interested in Atlantic salmon fishing in France, consider the following tips:

  • Optimal Flow: It’s crucial to fish in areas with optimal flow, allowing salmon to migrate from the sea. Even if you fish in the right month, a dry year may mean the fish haven’t reached the river. Being in the right place at the right time is critical for salmon fishing success, giving local fishermen a significant advantage.
  • Fishing Pressure: Look for areas with low fishing pressure—remote and less crowded spots—since fishing pressure in France tends to be high. This increases your chances of success and allows for a more tranquil fishing experience.
  • Knowledge of the Environment or Experienced Guide: Knowing the environment or being accompanied by an experienced fishing guide is essential. Salmon locations vary based on water levels, and fishermen need to adapt to changing river conditions. An experienced guide can provide valuable information and enhance your chances of success.
  • Skill and Proper Gear Selection: Naturally, skill, perseverance, choosing the right fly or lure, and the angler’s experience are crucial aspects. Patience and the ability to adapt to conditions are key in salmon fishing.
  • Analysis of Environmental Factors: It’s important to analyze the moon, tides, and weather conditions, such as cloudy days and changes in atmospheric pressure. These factors can influence salmon behavior and fishing activity. Being attentive to these variables can improve your chances of a successful fishing experience.