Taking my German Fishing License

1 - Some Background

I’m English and grew up fishing the Warwickshire Avon, the Thames and a number of still waters around the country where I picked up Fly Fishing.
About 8 years ago I was moved to Germany by my employer where I began to understand the complex nature of the German Fishing Licensing scheme.
Firstly it varies regionally, but follows a basic theme:
1) In order to fish anywhere, you need a license
2) In order to be able to buy a license (1…5, 10 year licenses are available) you need to pass an exam.
3) In order to sit (and pay for) the exam, you need to have official evidence that you have attended 40 hrs of lessons (again – this precise number may vary by state)
4) Once you have done all this, and got the license, then you will probably need to join a club in order to fish the water you want (though there are national waters) – and clubs are also regulated in terms of membership: they are assigned a certain allowed number of members dependent upon the length of water bank they own/rent (I have only ‘heard’ this information so have yet to verify) – so membership waiting lists can be up to 18mnths!
There were a couple of key issues here (disregarding the cost):
1) The time commitment – different states offer different solutions, some provide a week long intensive training leading up to the exam, which means you will need to take a week off work, whilst others use up every weekend in a month meaning that you do not need to take any time off, but that you need to at least be in town (not traveling) and willing to give up all this time.
2) The language – I had studied German at school so got back to that level pretty quickly, but this was pretty basic, and the fishing course would introduce some pretty specific vocabulary in a local dialect (not ‘Hoch Deutsche’ or ‘High German’)
Anyway, 3 ½ years later I still had not taken the lessons so had gone without fishing, but found out that we (I was now married) had the opportunity to spend 3 yrs in the US – which really opened up a whole new world of fishing!!
I joined the local Fly Fishing Club (http://www.buckeyeflyfishers.com/) where I was introduced to small-mouth Bass fishing on some of the streams running through Kentucky and Trout in Tennessee (particularly the Smokey Mountains)… Absolute Paradise!
I could spend a lot of time reminiscing here, but I’ll try to keep to theme…
So eventually (earlier this year) we moved back to Germany, where I once again took up complaining about not being able to fish, so for my birthday my wife announced that she had bought us fishing lessons, 4 weekends study before the exam in December… so this was it, time to get it done!

2 - So why is it so complicated?

This is what I am frequently asked by friends and colleagues, and once you get into it, it makes a lot of sense:
In many other countries, take for example the UK, you buy a license valid for the year during the fishing season. There is a closed season (March 15th à June 15th) which is in place to allow the fish time to spawn and reproduce. The slight problem with this is that all species of fish do not reproduce at the same time of year, and this is the premise for the German system:
In Germany you can fish 12 months of the year, but you are not allowed to target a species of fish if it is in it’s reproductive time of year and if you accidentally catch one, then you must put it back because catch and release is not allowed in Germany, you must kill and take all fish you catch unless:
i) It is too small.
ii) It is in it’s reproductive season.
iii) It is on the ‘Red List’ of protected species.
So the lessons are to educate you in fish recognition and to understand legal size limits.
In addition, you are taught how to humanely kill the fish, dissect it and identify any form of disease to allow you to:
i) Decide if it is safe to eat.
ii) Be the eyes of the Environment Agency and help track the presence or spread of disease.
The course content also includes a general education covering the general ecology of the water systems as well as basic fishing equipment, how and when to use it.
The exam is multiple choice, 60 out of a possible 660 questions (in Hessen).

3 - Just the exam to go... 29 Nov 2008

So we had the final lesson last Sunday. This was a 'practical' one where as an entire group we were split in two. I was in the first group who went outside as it started to snow, pulled a rainbow trout out of a water-filled container in a trailer attached to the back of the course owners Merc and proceeded to be shown how to kill it humanely, gut and fillet it.
1. killing it: knock it on the head, flip it over in your hand and poke a sharp filleting knife into it's throat - where the heart is - making a small incision until blood flows freely..
2. Gutting it: slice from anus to the hole you made in it's throat along the underside of the fish. Then squeeze the base of the gills together between thumb and fore-finger so the tongue is forced down and protrudes below the lower jaw. slide the knife in between the bottom of the jaw and the tongue, then slice toward the chin. This now enables you to use the lower jaw as a finger loop for a finger on one hand. Hold the head/upper jaw tightly in the other hand and pull the lower jaw down and away. as you continue to pull, it removes lower jaw, gills and all the guts in one piece: this is a neat technique!
3. Inspect the gills and guts for parasites, disease and signs of pollution - ie is it good to eat?
4. remove the fillets on each side of the fish if you want by sliding a blade, flat to the fish, along the backbone from tail to head.... personally I prefer to cook trout whole...

Part II of the lesson was an introduction to all this fishing tackle available and how you would use it for all the various types of fishing.

This was my favorite lesson!

We all then sat a test exam paper to get used to format etc, much as you would for any exam.... didn't like that bit quite so much!

So the exam is next weekend.

4 - The Exam. Saturday Dec 6th

So, we made our way to the County Hall in Darmstadt to sit the exam.  I think I had neglected to say that you actually need to receive an invitation to sit this exam.  The organizer of the course notifies the state 'Fishing Commity' that you have done your lessons and are ready for the exam - they in turn send you an invitation with the date, time and location on it.


This was common for all lessons / courses run throughout the state.


We walked into the new hall and took one of the desks each.  A board of 4 examiners all sat at the raised table in front explaining the different rules before handing out the papers - which you could start immediately.


I worked my way through the multiple choice, handed in the completed paper then left the room to wait with the others that had finished.  The examiners would mark the papers as soon as they got them, so you were able to wait until all had been graded before the results were shared with each individual.


Both my wife and I passed :-)  So now we have to wait for the official documentation that should arrive throught the mail next week before we can go and buy a fishing license, which are available for a range between 1 -10 years.


Let the fishing begin!