Top 5 Game Fish in Europe

Trout release - Credit 123RF

Sport fishing is a popular recreational activity in Europe, with anglers constantly seeking out the best freshwater game fish species to target.

Whether you’re an experienced angler or a passionate beginner, this article will introduce you to the top five freshwater fish that you can focus on during your fishing outings in Europe. Get your fishing gear ready because you won’t want to miss the opportunity to catch these magnificent specimens.

Pike (Esox lucius) - Credit Jik Jik on Wikimedia Commons
Pike (Esox lucius) – Credit Jik Jik on Wikimedia Commons

1. European Brown Trout

The European Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) is one of the most iconic freshwater game fish species in Europe. It is cherished by sport anglers for its beauty, fighting spirit, and delicious flesh. While the European Brown Trout can be found in numerous rivers and lakes across Europe, it thrives particularly well in mountain rivers.
This fish stands out with its characteristic black and red spots on a brown-green background. The European Brown Trout is known for its wariness and intelligence, presenting an exciting challenge for sport anglers. It feeds on small fish, insects, and crustaceans, making it an ideal target for anglers using artificial baits such as lures or flies.
To catch a European Brown Trout, it is best to visit areas with clear, well-oxygenated water. Mountain rivers often provide the best opportunities. Use natural baits like worms or insects, or try fly fishing for an even more thrilling experience.

2. Pike

The Pike (Esox lucius) is an iconic predatory fish in European freshwater. It is renowned for its impressive size, power, and aggressiveness when attacking its prey. Pike can reach lengths of up to 1.5 meters and weigh over 20 kilograms. They often hide near obstacles such as tree stumps or aquatic vegetation.
This fish is easily recognizable by its prominent lower jaw and sharp teeth. Pike primarily feed on smaller fish but are not averse to attacking larger prey like ducks or water rats. For sport anglers, catching a Pike is a true challenge, requiring good technique and suitable equipment to master.
The best time to fish for Pike is usually during spring and autumn when water temperatures are cooler. Use lures that imitate injured fish or live baits like live baitfish to grab the attention of these predators.

3. Perch

The Perch (Perca fluviatilis) is a small predatory fish found in many lakes and rivers throughout Europe. Recognizable by its green-striped body, the Perch is a feisty and bold fish, highly regarded by sport anglers.
This predator primarily feeds on small fish, crustaceans, and insects. Perch remain active throughout the day and prefer shallow waters near shores or obstacles. Sport anglers can catch Perch using various techniques, whether with natural baits like worms or maggots or with artificial lures.
To find Perch, look for signs of surface feeding, such as juvenile fish jumping. These fish often gather in schools, increasing the chances of catching multiple at once. Perch are ideal for beginners as they are easy to spot and catch.

4. Zander

The Zander (Sander lucioperca) is a prized freshwater predator among sport anglers in Europe. Resembling a Perch but larger and more muscular, Zander can grow up to one meter in length and weigh over 10 kilograms.
This fish is primarily found in large lakes and rivers across Europe, where it hides near submerged structures such as dead trees or wrecks. Zander feed on smaller fish but can also be enticed by artificial baits like soft lures or hard baits.
Zander fishing is often practiced during the night as these fish are more active during this period. Use lures that imitate small fish or crayfish to attract the attention of Zander. Be patient and wait for them to strike your bait before setting the hook.

5. Carp

Carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a highly prized freshwater fish among sport anglers in Europe. It stands out with its impressive size, strength, and endurance when hooked. Carp can weigh up to 30 kilograms or even more in certain cases.
This fish is primarily found in large bodies of water such as lakes and ponds. Carp mainly feed on aquatic plants, insects, and small crustaceans. They are known for their caution and wariness, making them an interesting challenge for sport anglers.
Carp fishing requires good technique and suitable equipment. Use natural baits like seeds, worms, or boilies to attract Carp. Be patient and wait for them to bite before setting the hook. Carp fishing can be practiced throughout the year, but the best seasons are usually spring and autumn.


Sport fishing in Europe offers numerous opportunities to catch exciting freshwater game fish. Whether you seek the thrill of a battle with a Pike or the finesse of catching a European Brown Trout, these five fish species are excellent choices for sport anglers.
Remember to respect local fishing regulations and practice catch-and-release for fish you do not intend to consume. Enjoy the beauty of nature and the excitement of sport fishing in Europe, creating unforgettable memories with each fishing trip.


No, while these species are commonly found in European freshwater, they may also be present in other regions of the world. However, this article focuses on their prevalence and popularity among sport anglers in Europe.

The best seasons can vary depending on the species and the specific location within Europe. Generally, spring and autumn are favourable times for targeting many of these game fish as water temperatures are cooler. However, it’s recommended to research and consult local fishing resources or experienced anglers to determine the optimal seasons for each species in your chosen fishing area.

The effectiveness of fishing techniques can vary depending on the species. For example, European Brown Trout is often caught using fly fishing techniques with artificial flies, while Pike can be targeted using lures that mimic injured fish. Perch can be caught with various techniques, including both natural baits and artificial lures. It’s advisable to research and experiment with different techniques to find what works best for each species.

Yes, many anglers enjoy consuming these freshwater game fish species. However, it’s important to check local regulations regarding catch limits, size restrictions, and any specific rules related to the consumption of fish from certain water bodies. Additionally, be mindful of any environmental factors that may affect the safety of consuming fish from specific locations.

Yes, some of these game fish species, such as Perch and Carp, are suitable for beginners due to their abundance, relatively easy catchability, and wide distribution. These species can provide an enjoyable fishing experience and help beginners gain confidence and skills before targeting more challenging species like Pike or European Brown Trout.

Yes, catch-and-release practices are encouraged, especially for the conservation of fish populations. Releasing fish unharmed allows them to reproduce and contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem. However, ensure you handle the fish properly and follow best practices for catch-and-release to minimize stress and injury to the fish.

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