Nature getaway, around the foreshore

The tides, what’s that?

During the day there are 4 tides : 2 high tides and 2 low tides. They are due to the force of attraction from the moon. The part of the ocean that is the closest to the moon gets deformed, it swells a bit because it is drawn to it, that is high tide. Then, 6 hours later it’s low tide which means that the moon will have carried out a quarter-turn rotation because the force of attraction won’t be the same because of the distance. When the isle of Ré is the opposite of the moon, another 6 hours later, it will be high tide once again. The centrifugal force will push back the water, making its level higher. So there are always 2 water “bulges” on each side of the earth : low tides and high tides.

On the isle of Ré, 2 sites forbid shore fishing: The Northern beach (‘La
plage Nord’) in Rivedoux-Plage and ‘le Banc du Gros sable’ which is the natural reserve of ‘Lilleau des
Niges’, North of the ‘fier d’Ars’), but also in the harbours and the channels, and close to the harbour

A session of shore fishing
Yes, but in a certain way

It is recommended to :

  • Check the high tide time to anticipate your returning time according to the coefficients and the sites. Fishermen can fish up to 1-2 hours before low tide and after. Certain sites can be tricky, so it’s always best to come back early and check the other fishermen’s behavior.
  • Have a watch, a charged phone and know the French emergency numbers: 18 and 196 (operational surveillance and rescue centers: CROSS)
  • Have tight welly boots or old sneakers. Do not venture barefoot.
  • Do not venture in any case of fog or risks of storm.
  • Do not go at nighttime ( shore fishing is forbidden between sunset and sunrise).

In certain zones, shells are not suitable for consumption. You can find all the information on the directorate of maritime affairs website and through the ‘ecoguards’ of the local council communities.

Fishing while still preserving :

One should leave as little mark as possible from their passage, and not spoil or destroy anything. What has been fished should be eaten, fully. One should only fish what they like, and in quantities corresponding to their needs. If you are fishing for the first time, get informed about the preservation of your fishing.

©Destination Ile de Ré

It is compulsory to :

  • Put the stones and sediments back into place
  • Fill the little holes in again, avoid habitat destruction
  • Walk slowly, while watching the landscape carefully
  • Use gentle tools so as not to hurt marine organisms
  • Quickly release the smallest animals and, above all, put them back where they were as moving them reduces their chance of survival
  • Respect the regulation (sizes) and measure the animals one by one

The tools : a pair of gloves, an oyster pickaxe and possibly a clam probe
The essentials : a ruler and a pocket scale
It is forbidden to use : a ‘fergeon’ or a stick to fish razor shells, a hammer, a burin, a shovel, an arrow or a rake
Quotas to be respected : Each fisherman has the right to take 5 kilos a day. Certain species have additional restrictions (maximum quotas)
Cockles : 2 kilos ; Venus clams : 3 kilos ; Clams : 200 ; Spider crabs : 6 ; Prawns : 2 kilos

The ruler and the practical guide of shore fishing are available in the 10 offices/ reception desks of Destination Ile de Ré.You can find all of the info on or contact ‘ecoguards’: 05 46 09 68 65

The treasures of the foreshore :

The animals and plants of the foreshore are sometimes composed of sea water. They have a vital need for this element and are not submerged whilst the tide is out, day or night, in winter or in summer. These organisms have adapted: oysters, limpets, mussels close their shells when the tide is out to withhold the water. Clams, Venus clams and razor shells dig themselves in the sand or the mud to remain in a wet environment. Crabs, shrimps, sea snails and fish hide under rocks. Algae and anemones intake a lot of water to survive. All these littles creatures wait for high tide to get back out and resume their lives.

On the foreshore we can find :

  • mollusks (soft, with or without a shell) limpets or “chapeaux chinois” Littorina, periwinkles molds/ mussels, scallops, (bivalve) clam oysters, clams, cockles and razor shells (bivalves from the sandy or rocky foreshore), cephalopods (as cuttlefish for example).
  • foreshore fish blennies, gobies,…., wrasses, ….
  • cnidarians (jellyfish, anemones) jellyfish, anemones
  • crustaceans (articulated bodies covered with a shell) shrimps, crabs (velvet crab, the European green crab, spider crab, brown crab)

There’s only one step from the foreshore to the dunes

At the top of the beach, we can find the embryonic dune. It is an extremely fragile habitat that we need to preserve. It’s important not to trample on it. The species that we can find there are very diverse: sea grass, …. And bindweed. The part of the coastline that is visible during low tide is called ‘Platin’ on the Ile De Ré. At the bottom of the beach, on the rocky foreshore, we will only find algae: the ulvas and the bladderwrack are the most famous At the back of the embryonic dune is the grey dune which is the fixed dune.

Stop there! Nesting birds in sigh

In April, May and June, the nesting birds settle down on the whole island, including the beaches! The Kentish plover settles at the top of the beaches. Its discreet nest makes it vulnerable. It can get trampled on if we don’t pay attention to it. During this time of year, the waste collection at the top of the beaches is to be avoided or carried out with caution.

Open your eye!
During every high tide, the sea leaves plant debris and shellfish (and also waste) at the top of the beach. It is the foreshore. It is extremely important for many birds which find food or hide there.
Beach cleanups are limited to anthropogenic waste.
Zoom on anelids (warms). Discover the magnificent architectural achievements built by “building worms” using sand. They are propitious habitats for a lot of species and can easily be observed on the beaches in the South of the island.

The gathering of migratory species

From August, wintering birds come back from Northern Europe.
Many little shore waders come to eat small seashells, worms and crustaceans on the beaches and on the mudflats during low tide.
The sanderling sandpipers and turnstones can be spotted very close to the waves. Be careful: when they are gathered to rest, these species are often disturbed by dogs and walkers. Make sure you avoid them.
On the water, we will also find the brent geese coming back from Siberia.
During winter, at high tide, opt for the path that goes along the natural reserve of “Lilleau des Niges”.
Large groups of birds enjoying the peace and quiet of the environment can be observed.

The mysterious fish locks

You will be surprised by these long rocky walls which meander the rocky foreshore. These fisheries, whose origin dates back to the distant Middle Ages, stretch a few hundred meters. When there were about 115 locks in 1727, there are only 14 left today, mostly in Sainte-Marie-de-Ré, Saint-Clément-des-Baleines, Les Portes-en-Ré, Ars en-Ré and Loix. The locks show an endangered way of fishing.They are all the more threatened that this fragile heritage requires constant vigilance. It is forbidden to fish or to come closer than 25 meters to the fish locks, and the same rules apply to oyster or mussel farms. The best way to discover these historical fisheries is to take part in the tours given by “la Verdonnais” and “L’ancre Maritaise”.

Get information from the 10 reception desks. To learn more:

Caution: Surfcasting requires particular vigilance to the waves and to the water holes which depth can go down several meters.
Even fishing from a dike or a wedge requests some vigilance depending on the sea and on the swell.

©Laurence Furic

And what about the coast ?

Surfcasting – which consists in angling with the waves - is one of the fishing techniques practiced from rocks, beaches or swells.

Contrarily to freshwater fishing, there is no need for a licence to fish along the sea, day or night. But sometimes, certain areas such as marinas, can be forbidden for different reasons, health ones for instance. It is therefore recommended to get some information on the current regulations.
Recreational marine fishing is regulated and takes into account the sizes, quantities, the closing periods depending on the species. Certain fish need to be branded. Respecting these rules allows for the preservation of sea resources. For example, little juvenile fish need to be put back in the water to allow them to reach maturity to be able to reproduce.
Every species has their breading period. Taking notice of it is crucial. For example, we fish bass from April to November, mullet in May and June as well as from December to January and sole mostly insummer and autumn.

To learn more: