Angling in the Netherlands, 1990-2022

In 2020 more than 700,000 active anglers were members of an angling club in the Netherlands and holders of the national fishing permit. The Covid-19 restrictions led to a significant increase in the number of anglers in 2020; this growth continued in 2021 and 2022.

Fishing rights

To fish in inland waters in the Netherlands, anglers are required by law to have written permission from the holder of the fishing rights. The fishing rights for most inland waters in the Netherlands are held by angling clubs (except for eel fishing). Permission to fish in these waters is reserved for holders of a VISpas, which replaced the sportvisakte. Members of angling clubs that are affiliated with one of the Sportvisserij Nederland angling federations are automatically entitled to a VISpas. Non-members may purchase a 'small' VISpas, which entitles them to fish in a restricted number of waters with one rod and a limited range of bait. There is a special JeugdVISpas for young people. Possession of a VISpas is enforced by the police, special investigating officers and angling club inspectors. No permit is required for sea angling in most marine waters.

Number of anglers

In 2022 there were almost 716,000 anglers and more than 38,000 young anglers in the Netherlands. The number of anglers was fairly constant from 1990 to 2020. In 2020 the number of registered anglers increased by over 17%. During the Covid-19 restrictions a large number of people took to fishing as a form of outdoor recreation and relaxation. With the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions in 2021 and 2022, the increase in the numbers of anglers continued to grow, by 1% and 1.5% respectively, except among young people. Following an initial strong increase in the number of young anglers of 47%, in 2022 the number fell by 10% from the 2021 level. Most anglers are members of a local angling club. In 2022 there were 726 active angling clubs in the Netherlands, compared with 748 in 2020.

Fishing and fish stock management

Angling affects and is affected by nature and water policies because it depends on good water quality and healthy fish populations. The angling clubs, as owners of the fishing rights, are also responsible for fishing activities and fish stock management, for which fishing and fish stock management plans are drawn up. The national angling organisation Sportvisserij Nederland evaluated the performance of fish stock management committees in 2019 and 2020 and found that just a few committees have been successful in maintaining sustainable fish stock levels.

Ecological impacts

Fish are often specially introduced to keep waters stocked for angling. In the past, many species were introduced, such as perch, roach, carp, rainbow trout, brown trout, common barbell, chub, rudd, ide and pikeperch. They were introduced into all types of surface waters and sometimes into habitats where they are not naturally found, or introduced in excessive numbers. Many exotic species have also been introduced for angling, such as pikeperch, brook trout, rainbow trout, bighead carp and silver carp. Introducing fish that are not native in the Netherlands can be damaging to the ecosystem. In recent years the number of fish introductions has fallen sharply, with the exception of carp introductions, because carp have difficulty reproducing in the Netherlands and so stocks are declining. But even carp can cause damage to ecosystems and so Sportvisserij Nederland advises introducing carp only in isolated fish ponds and has made subsidies available for this.
The angling community plays its part in the research into improving fish stocks and fishing waters, for example by reintroducing fish species (e.g. sea trout, salmon, allis shad, sturgeon) and protecting and developing fish stocks (e.g. shark, skate, pikeperch, carp, bream). Sportvisserij Nederland provides data on freshwater fishing in the Netherlands.

As anglers also have an interest in maintaining healthy freshwater ecosystems, angling clubs support efforts to facilitate fish migration, fish-friendly hydropower plants and research into the ecology of fish, and are actively involved in measures to improve the quality of the Markermeer and IJsselmeer lakes. Due in part to research results and expertise from angling clubs, the main obstacles to fish migration have been mapped, fish passes have been built and fish migration monitored.

On the other hand, the clubs are also pursuing various courses of action to prevent or reverse constraints on angling. For example, in July 2020, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten, announced the introduction of a 250 metre fishing free zone around all fish migration facilities in inland waters to give the fish a better chance of safely navigating the passes. After lobbying by the angling organisations, a large majority of the House of Representatives adopted a motion calling on the government to abandon the introduction of these fishing free zones. However, the minister will pursue the original, unamended proposal to establish fishing free zones for all fishing gear around all fish migration facilities in 2022. Following the motion put forward in Parliament by Lodders and others, Minister Staghouwer permitted the angling clubs to consult with water authorities and present evidence-based proposals for smaller zones in specified categories of locations. Only then will regulations be drawn up to introduce fishing free zones. It is expected that fishing free zones should be in force for all locations by the end of 2023.

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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Angling in the Netherlands, 1990-2022 (indicator 1275, version 09,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.