Fishing holidays and fishing properties in France are very popular as there are some very desirable fishing locations across France. Owning a lake or stretch of water in France is quite common because of the low population density in particular regions of the country and the relatively cheap price of land. As such, many people have aspirations of owning their own lake for decorative or practical purposes alike.
Fishing Rights in France
Unless otherwise specified by agreement, no third party has the right to fish on a private stretch of water that runs through privately owned property.
However, where the river or stream is publicly owned then owners are required to permit fishing, to those with a fishing licence, and to leave a space of 3.5 metres wide along the river bank for right of passage and fishing stations. According to French fishing rights, this space can be reduced to 1.5 metres by the local prefecture.
Needless to say, French fishing rights are often a source of great conflict between fishing enthusiasts and property owners, with owners sometimes erecting barriers to prevent access. These conflicts often need to be resolved through a formal written agreement.
An owner is not obliged to grant right of access over their land to reach the river.
Rivers and streams in France
There are over 250,000 kilometres of privately owned rivers and streams in France.
If you have a watercourse going through or at the perimeter of your property, and you are unsure about your water rights and whether it is public or private property, you should contact your Direction departemental de l'equipement (DDE) who will be based in your Prefecture.
If you are lucky enough to be the owner of a private stretch of river or stream then it is important to remember your water rights; it is ownership of the bed only and not the water itself. Except in the case of spring water (which belongs to the owner of the property), all water is public property, in the sense that it belongs to no one and everyone! This implies that anyone is permitted to navigate down a stretch of river, whether public or private, but they are not entitled to make use of the riverbank itself. Accordingly, if it is necessary to go on private property to gain access to the river, you need the permission of the owner.
If the river is entirely within the bounds of your property then you own the whole of the bed. If, however, it separates two private properties then each have ownership of half of the riverbed.
The law requires that you undertake regular maintenance of the riverbed and riverbank to ensure the proper flow of water and development of flora and fauna.
Owners are entitled to extract water from the river for their own private use, including, if required, the installation of pumping equipment for this purpose, provided it is on their own land.
If you want to read more about it, you can learn more about water rights in France.
Private Lakes in France
Owners of private lakes in France are obliged to supply a limited number of fishing permits for release to the general public. The legality of owning lakes and for those looking to fish in private or public watercourses should always be checked before proceeding. We recommend that you consult the informative property guides on French-property.com for more information on the legality of owning or using watercourses in France. These guides contain interesting information on fishing rights in France and French property water rights.
If you are interested in buying a French property with a lake or buying a lake or river then please consult our property search.