Les chalutiers du Hourdel en Baie de Somme se consacrent en grande partie à la pêche à la crevette grise. Lors de la remontée du chalut, un multitude de mouettes vient manger ce que les pêcheurs rejettent à l'eau. Saison : automne - Lieu :  Le Hourdel, Baie de Somme, Somme, Picardie, Hauts-de-France, France. The trawlers from Les chalutiers du Hourdel en Baie de Somme se consacrent en grande partie à la pêche à la crevette grise. Lors de la remontée du chalut, un multitude de mouettes vient manger ce que les pêcheurs rejettent à l'eau. Saison : automne - Lieu : Le Hourdel, Baie de Somme, Somme, Picardie, Hauts-de-France, France. The trawlers from "Le Hourdel" in the Baie de Somme are largely devoted to fishing for shrimp. During the ascent of the trawl, a multitude of seagulls comes to eat what the fishermen reject to the water. Season: autumn - Location: Le Hourdel, Somme Bay, Somme, Picardie, Hauts-de-France, France
©Les chalutiers du Hourdel en Baie de Somme se consacrent en grande partie à la pêche à la crevette grise. Lors de la remontée du chalut, un multitude de mouettes vient manger ce que les pêcheurs rejettent à l'eau. Saison : automne - Lieu : Le Hourdel, Baie de Somme, Somme, Picardie, Hauts-de-France, France. The trawlers from "Le Hourdel" in the Baie de Somme are largely devoted to fishing for shrimp. During the ascent of the trawl, a multitude of seagulls comes to eat what the fishermen reject to the water. Season: autumn - Location: Le Hourdel, Somme Bay, Somme, Picardie, Hauts-de-France, France|Stéphane BOUILLAND
A foodie, sociable and even slightly sporty experience

Types of fish in France perfect for a seafood feast

Expérience gourmande, conviviale et (un brin) sportive

Fishing is inscribed in the French DNA and especially in the spirit of the people who work on or by the sea. With nearly 200km of coastline stretching from Bray Dunes by the Belgian border to Mers-les-Bains on the border with Normandy – a coastline dotted not only with old fishing villages but also home to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France’s biggest fishing port – Hauts-de-France is the place to taste seafood from the North Sea and the Channel.

Whether buying them from local suppliers with minimal food miles involved, tasting them in a res-taurant with sea views, going out on a boat trip to fish for them, or attending a festival dedicated to them, fish and shellfish are a quintessential part of the experience of being on holiday in Hauts-de-France. And seafood is both delicious and very healthy!

Northern France_ Fishing boat returning to harbour © Stéphane BOUILLANDNorthern France_ Fishing boat returning to harbour © Stéphane BOUILLAND
©Northern France_ Fishing boat returning to harbour © Stéphane BOUILLAND|CRT Hauts-de-France - Stéphane BOUILLAND

Types of fish in France from the North Sea and the English Channel

What better than super-fresh seafood from the North Sea or Channel to treat yourself and do your-self good at the same time? The waters close to the French coast have always been a rich fishing ground, with more than 70 species currently caught there. The star trio in Boulogne is scallops, squid and whiting, but there’s also cod, plaice, haddock, sea bass, sole and lemon sole, turbot, prawns, crabs, lobsters, bouchot-grown mussels, and Omega 3 rich mackerel and herring.

To be a sustainable fish consumer and maintain this wealth of choice in our seas, follow the advice of the Mr Goodfish European eco-label, supported by Boulogne’s Nausicaà, the Centre National de la Mer. Mr Goodfish tells you which species to pick according to the season. It’s a website, an app and a blue logo that you’ll see in many fishmongers’ windows and on the menu in certain restau-rants. It makes eating fish good both for our health and for the planet.

Where can I buy super-fresh North Sea fish?

By buying North Sea seafood direct from the fishing boats, you’re mixing conviviality with the eco-friendly practice of keeping food miles to a minimum. At Boulogne-sur-Mer on the Opal Coast, you can do this every day,on the Quai Gambetta. In Etaples-sur-Mer, fishermen’s wives sell their wares from a dozen covered stalls along the Canche. In Calais, you’ll find them on Quai de la Colonne, clustered around the stall of Myriam Pont, who fishes mussels on foot.

In Le Crotoy in the Baie de Somme (Bay of Somme – one of the most beautiful bays in the world), head to the fish and seafood kiosks set up on on the quays at weekends. In Cayeux-sur-Mer, the last of the artisan fishermen sell their products from their trawlers after sailing back into the little port of Le Hourdel. In Equihen-Plage, known for its mussel beds, and in Audresselles, famous for its shellfish, some locals set up stalls right in front of their houses. A case of fishing boat to fork!

Where’s best for an unforgettable meal of North Sea fish?

There’s an embarrassment of choice for those in the mood to treat themselves to a super-fresh fish served by friendly locals, in restaurants with panoramic views or unique locations.

In Boulogne, take a seat in Le Chatillon in the Capécure district, where those in the fishing industry themselves come to eat. It’s decorated in the style of a trawler and serves impeccably fresh produce.

In Calais, Aquar’aile is a place to drink in glorious views of the sea and the coming and going of ferries while feasting on sole or a lobster stew carrying the Mr Goodfish seal of approval. In Wime-reux, Hôtel Atlantic and its restaurants – the Michelin-starred La Liégeoise and the relaxed L’Aloze brasserie – offer the full-on seaside experience for both eyes and tastebuds. At Le Poisson à Hélices, the restaurant of the charming Le Cise ‘Relai du Silence’ (‘Silent Inn’) in Ault, savour a fish brochette accompanied by breathtaking views over the mouth of the Baie de Somme and its cliffs.

Can I going out fishing for my North Sea fish?

Yes indeed – why not treat yourself to a day at sea, with professional fisherman, to catch the ingredients for your own lunch or dinner?! In Boulogne-sur-Mer, in season, you can go sea-fishing aboard La Florelle, with fishing equipment included in the price. In Etaples, you can enjoy a 12-hour sortie in the Baie de Canche – again, professionally run. In Calais, Le Loup de Mer association will take you fishing by the coast or further out at sea – or even very far. Meanwhile, at Le Portel, you can go out in a flobart, a flat-bottomed boat native to the Opal Coast, for a half-day’s sea-fishing with Les Barsiers Portelois.

And if you don’t want to set sail, head to Calais, where Myriam Pont, La Paysanne des Mers, will show you how to pick mussels during an expedition on foot – bringing back something to relish when you get home.

Celebrating North Sea fish

In Hauts-de-France, people take advantage of any opportunity to celebrate, including the seasonal arrival of certain fish…

Audresselles celebrates crabs, Equihen-Plage mussels and Etaples-sur-Mer scallops – the latter, with their pearly flesh and orange corals, the big stars of this coastline. Veritable tons of shellfish are eaten in April alone, some of them prepared by famous chefs.

In November herring is celebrated – this is a month in which miraculous amounts of this fish are caught all along the Hauts-de-France coast. In both Boulogne-sur-Mer and Etaples, tonnes of grilled, smoked and marinated herrings are eaten, accompanied by a hunk of bread and a glass of wine.

This king of the Northern French coast reappears at the Dunkirk Carnival each February, when herrings are thrown from the Hôtel de Ville. Yes, you read that right – hundreds of kilograms are thrown into the crowd by the mayor (wrapped in cellophane, thankfully!).

Local's tip

Northern France _ Sébastien Lignier _ guide © CRTC HDF Anne Sophie FlamentNorthern France _ Sébastien Lignier _ guide © CRTC HDF Anne Sophie Flament
In Maréis – Sea Fishing Discovery Centre,

you can discover the hidden aspects of the trade from the horse’s mouth. Rich in anecdotes, the former sea fishermen here reveal the secrets of daily life aboard their vessels as well as answering any questions you have – not only about fishing itself but about related issues, including those caused by Brexit. It’s a totally immersive experience!

Sébastien Lignier, guide and activity leader at Maréis, and former sea fisherman

Infos pratiques