We’ve resurrected this blog post written by Gareth Watkins a while back. We get a lot of questions passed our way regarding how to run successful carp lakes in France, this blog post helps to answer them…
One of the subjects I see come up again and again on the web forums and one I get regular e-mails about is buying a carp lake in France.
Now I can’t criticise anyone for wanting to live this particular dream because I went down this road in 1999 when I purchased my own lakes in northern France. Over the years I think it has got far harder than when I ventured down this road for the simple reason that the market place has become pretty crowded and the number of venues opening every year is nothing short of staggering. I think it stands to reason that there won’t be a place for everyone.
So what are the traps to avoid? Eight things you need to know when you set up a Carp Fishing Lake in France…
1. Setting up a business
Many coming to France to launch a carp fishing venue may not have set up a business in the UK. I have to say it is not any easier in France, on the contrary, you have French legislation to deal with, the language barrier and the adaptation to a new way of life.
The first thing to do is the get advice on what type of business you want to launch. Do you want to be a sole trader, a Limited Company etc. The options aren’t as obvious as you may think and you need to chose the best one for your business. My advice is to get a good accountant, preferably one who speaks English and can advise you on the ins and outs of running a French business.
You have to keep in mind that you WILL be running a French business. Even if you live in the UK if your activity is based in France, then you are a French business, even if your punters are English and pay you in the UK.
These questions need looking at from the outset. When you set up for the French system you will be subject to French taxes, VAT, Poll tax, Rates, national insurance etc, etc… Keep this in mind and find out what you need to know. I can tell you this takes a sizeable whack out of your monthly income.
2. Location, location, location
When you identify your clients, it will become abundantly clear that most will not travel far from the North. Any location too far south will put a brake on the booking rate. Over the last 15 years we have observed a massive difference in bookings between the venues in the north of France and the South. Go south of the Loire and you are placing an extra obstacle in front of your venue to getting anglers to come. Not insurmountable of course, but your offering needs to have stand out qualities to justify the extra distance.
3. Do inventory of stocks and assess additional fish necessary
When you buy your lake, if it is at all possible, drain it and find out what stocks you have. Too many silver fish and not enough predators is a bad sign. You’ll often find that you have a large number of small carp in your lake. This is generally because the French anglers have removed the pike and zander and left nothing to control the carp population. If your largest fish is 15lb you’ll be hard pushed to open a carp fishery.
Basically a carp lake needs around 500kg-600 kg of carp per hectare. You need a good spread of weights. Most UK waters now can produce 20’s so you don’t want to go under this for your French lake. A stock from 22lb -30lb plus is therefore needed. If your lake has no big fish you’ll need to stock them. This is a very expensive business and there are no guarantees your trophy fish will survive the transplantation.
This is a point most people who have never stocked a carp lake fail to take into account… you will lose some fish! Everybody does at some point. Carp, especially large carp, while very hardy fish don’t take kindly to being restocked, the larger the fish the higher the potential probability for problems and the greater the cost to you, the lake owner. Nobody likes to admit that their expensive 50lb mirror that was photographed going into the lake in fact died a fortnight later. But the risks are high.
The fish need regular feeding the give them the best chance of survival, with a decent high grade fish pellet. These can be purchased from companies like, Skretting, Le Gouessant, and Sarb in France. I was fortunate enough to purchase a venue with carp to 45lb already in it. If you don’t have this the investment is high. The problem is that more and more venues are offering bigger and bigger fish. Competition is therefore high, bear this in mind!!!
Finally get your fish from a reputable registered fish farmer. If possible go to his fish farm and choose you fish yourself. Most reputable farmers allow this. Make sure they are weighed in front of you and treated with care and respect. Don’t accept injured, bleeding or damaged fish!! They have a better than even chance of dying.
More and more venues have top class facilities. Gone are the days when anglers were happy to use the bushes and go a week without a wash. So you need to consider this carefully before you settle on a lake.
What type of facilities, accommodation etc does it offer. If you have none can you get planning permission? Can you get electricity? A venue with no electric available to anglers is a hard push and you’d be forced to find alternative energy solutions such as solar – which are getting more impressive as time moves on. Electricity is to my mind indispensable, but is expensive, time consuming and complicated to get installed.
Do you have running water? Can these be installed?
If you purchase a venue you want to offer for fishing you’ll need toilets and showers as a minimum for the site.
If you need to get a toilet block built, or any other type of facility, can you get planning permission? My experience is that this is pretty difficult and time consuming in the rural areas if France. You many be able to install a Chalet or Mobile Home with the Mayor’s Ok! As long as it doesn’t go over 20 m².
Take a look at carp fishing in France with accommodation venues such as Lillybelle and Molyneux. They both have wooden chalets that provide ample accommodation for the angler wanting a bit more luxury and these prove very popular!
5. Knowing French law
You need to get informed on both the legislation for fisheries and the status you need to run it… not every lake is allowed under French law to be set up, stocked and night fished as a classic type carp fishery.
Just because you own it, and it’s a private property, does not mean you are automatically allowed to set up as you wish. Lakes need to be closed waters. You’ll need to get this checked by a ‘Notaire’ (French solicitor), don’t just take the Estate agent’s word that it’s ok. He often just wants his commission and is totally ignorant of the local legislation.
If the water has a river or stream running in or out of it, you’ll probably be subject to the local fisheries by-laws on stocking, fishing times etc and whether you can fish without a rod licence. These are crucial questions that will effect the way you can set up your venue. Find out before parting with your cash.
6. Money to see it through
Many people underestimate the cost that setting up a carp fishery is going to represent, and how soon it is going to be before it starts to earn money, if indeed it ever does earn money. Once you have acquired your lake and added sufficient fish stocks it will have taken a big chunk of your capital, that’s for sure. I would say you’ll probably also need sufficient funds to survive with no significant income for at least a couple more years. This type of monetary needs have to be built into your calculations.
7. Budget for marketing
Agent, Solo? This is also an important choice. You need to allocate a decent budget for marketing into your business plan. You’ll need a good website, continually up to date information, feedback, active social media.. etc. Don’t think a couple of ads in Carp Talk will fill your venue. Going solo will cost you money.
Alternatively you might chose to market your venue through an agent such as ourselves at Angling Lines. This is often a cheaper option and for the right venues with the right fish stocks we do a good job. It will cost you a commission, which some wish not to pay, and of course it is impossible to give any guarantees, simply our experience after many years in the business. Generally speaking when you look at the cost of all that is involved an agent offers good value for money, but I accept they are not for everyone.
8. Knowing what makes a carp venue
It is extremely important to know what market you are getting into. Naturally carp fishing is a niche market, so your lake needs to offer a product that fits this niche perfectly.
I hope these few lines have not put you off. Enjoy your new adventure and Bonne Chance!!