Journee peche etang de la Dombes (Ain)Journee peche etang de la Dombes (Ain)
©Journee peche etang de la Dombes (Ain)|Daniel Gillet

The Dombes, the ponds

An inseparable story

Pond fishing in Dombes

Autumn and winter in Dombes rhyme with “Pond Fishing,” a unique event and an ancestral tradition…

Don’t miss these rare events!

Fishing in Dombes

The Dombes, land of 1000 ponds, is the leading fish farming region in France in terms of production. The tradition of ponds in Dombes dates back to the Middle Ages when religion influenced the population’s diet: fish was the main food on fasting days.
The monks present at that time had the idea to transform the marshes into “natural basins,” the ponds. Thus, they shaped chains of ponds in Dombes, each pond connected to others upstream and downstream by a ditch and used for fish farming.
This fish farming tradition continues, and October marks the start of fishing in Dombes.
The pond is thus a tool for fish production, but also a source of biodiversity to host flora and avifauna.

With the support of the Department of Ain, a program to revive the fish farming industry has been implemented, maintaining the ponds while finding economic value in Poissons de Dombes®. The launch of new processed products and the Cuir de Carpe de Dombes® is part of this economic valorization.

Pond fishing, an ancestral know-how

Every year in autumn, the pond is emptied like a bathtub, using its valve called “le thou“.
The fish naturally gather at the deepest point: “le bief“. The fishermen deploy a net from one end of the bief to the other and bring the fish close to the shore: “la pêcherie“.

Pulling the net is an operation that requires concentration and physical strength in difficult working conditions: humidity, cold, weight of the net, muddy ground. Generally, it is the collector (wholesale fishmonger) who directs the fishing. This operation is repeated two to three times during the fishing with increasingly tight mesh nets (from the large mesh net to the seillette).

The fishermen pull the net to the pêcherie and catch the fish in arvaux (a type of large nets) to take them out of the water. They are then placed in crates and transported to the sorting table, called the gruyère. This operation requires experience and a good knowledge of fish.

It is then up to the sorters to intervene. Their role is to sort the fish by category and weight. The carriers make round trips between the pond, the gruyère, and the scale (on the embankment) where the fish will be weighed.

What do we fish in the ponds?

The carp

The carp, emblem of our ponds, represents nearly 70% of the production of the ponds in Dombes.
Present since the Middle Ages, it is resilient and ensures the natural balance of the pond. The carp is a scavenger fish that allows light to reach the bottom of the pond, thus promoting natural feeding.
The carp, from a Poissons de Dombes® farm, does not receive antibiotics and is raised in a natural, preserved space free of toxic products.

Carp is one of the leanest fish with only 1.1% fat. It is rich in protein, vitamins D, and B12. It can be cooked in 1001 ways… stuffed carp, carp fillet in red wine for the most traditional recipes, goujonnette and falafels for the trendiest, and in soufflé, smoked or in rillettes for quick meals.

And also…. To ensure a harmonious ecosystem, other fish are present in our ponds in smaller quantities:
Pike, Tench, Zander, Black Bass, and other white fish…

Why are the ponds emptied?

Since the creation of the ponds in the Middle Ages, the same maintenance techniques such as the alternation of periods of évolage and assec have been maintained in Dombes.
During the évolage period, the pond is filled with water and used for fish production for a maximum of 4 years.
Then, it is put in assec, meaning that it is emptied of its water for a season.
This “rest” period allows the operator to maintain and renovate the structures inaccessible when the pond is in water and to “work” the soil.

He also puts the pond in cultivation (oats, sorghum, ryegrass, maize…) to regenerate the soil and thus promote the appearance of phytoplankton when refilled with water.

A respected tradition guaranteeing a quality product while preserving its environment.

Processing workshop

Poisson de Dombes®

What happens after fishing?

After fishing in the Dombes ponds, the fish are transported to a collector (fishmonger, wholesaler) where they are stored alive in tanks with clear water.
Then, they will be used either for stocking rivers or for consumption.
3 workshops adhering to the Poissons de Dombes® industry transform the Poissons de Dombes® in an artisanal way.

To give it optimal taste quality, the Dombes carp is kept in clear water for at least 24 hours before processing.

We tell you everything !

How to discover them ?

Dombes Tourisme

Place du Champ de Foire 01400 Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne

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Contact the office: 04 74 55 02 27