Tackling Big Public Waters

The trials and tribulations of fishing big, low-stocked French public waters and the tactics I employ in order to tackle them

Simon Palmer

Published: June 8, 2021

Many of the public lakes in France are in fact Barrages (old dammed river beds), meaning in most cases there aren’t the usual pre-built swims you would expect from your local day ticket, club water, or syndicate. Access to the lake can itself be problematic with only one or two drop-off points where you can park your vehicle.
There are certain items I deem essential when fishing these venues.

  • A boat big enough to carry you and your gear
  • Life jacket
  • Outboard motor
  • Leisure battery
  • Spare clothing
  • Echo sounder
  • Binoculars

I also always make a point of telling my partner which lake I am going to. This may sound silly but some of these lakes are vast and in the middle of nowhere with little to no mobile phone reception, once you’re there, you are on you’re own!

Finding the fish is key!

As with any lake, locating the fish is key but on these huge public lakes this is even more paramount than it is on say a 5 acre lake where there’s a good chance you will be on fish at some point of the session.

Walking around the lake is usually impossible so I start off in the boat with the echo sounder on, visiting likely looking fish-holding areas such as overhanging trees, weedbeds and any unusual undulations in the lake bed. Mostly the water clarity is very poor, so it’s unlikely that I will spot a carp any more than a couple of feet under the surface. But with the fishfinder turned on the echo sounder it gives a good indication whether or not there are fish present in the area.

With the echo sounder showing me that there are fish in the area, I will throw in a couple of handfuls of free bait offerings and move away to a distance that the fish feel comfortable feeding and use my binoculars to scan the water surface for any signs that these fish could be carp. This process can take hours..

The carp on these types of venues tend to be very nomadic so it’s important to capitalise on their presence when you have found them. In this case, once I know that the fish that are feeding on my free offerings are carp, I will slowly introduce more bait at a ‘little and often’ approach until I feel confident that I can put a line with bait attached to it on the spot without spooking the carp. Finding a place to pitch up camp within a reasonable distance from the fish is another issue altogether, on many occasions I have had my bivvy and bedchair sloping down at nearly 45-degree angles simply because there are no other spots to fish from. Noone said this type of fishing is comfortable, but in my opinion, this is proper fishing!

In the next article I will describe how I plan a consitent baiting approach and the tackle required for such venues..