Though you wouldn’t guess it from a glimpse at the murky water, the canals of the Netherlands are home to more than just bicycles and beer cans. They’re also teeming with fish.
Even in crowded Amsterdam, the brown-green waters of the city’s 160 canals are home to an amazing diversity of fish species. There’s pike, roach, rudd, zander, perch, eel, freshwater bream, and carp, to name but a few of the 20 or so species that call the canals home. And, while the water may look inhospitable, it’s actually cleaner than it’s ever been.
That’s because local authorities decided around 15 years ago to move a wastewater treatment plant out to the west of the city and to hook all of Amsterdam’s houseboats up to the sewage system. Beforehand, their toilets would literally empty into the canals, with the waste eventually making its way out to sea.
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The Water May Be Cleaner Than Ever, But Would You Eat a Fish Straight From the Canal?
First things first: none of the breeds you’ll find in the Netherlands’ canals are renowned for their flavor. There’s a reason seafood restaurants don’t serve up carp, roach, bream, and pike. There are ways to prepare and eat these fish of course, but one look at a pike’s ugly head would probably be enough to turn the stomachs of all but the hungriest or most determined.
Zander, however, can be baked, smoked, or fried, and according to Wikipedia at least, is more highly regarded than salmon by some chefs.
If you want to try your luck fishing in the canals of Amsterdam or beyond, you’ll need a permit. The VISpas is available from Sportvisserij Nederland for around €40 and allows you to fish throughout the whole country for a year. Sportvisserij Nederland also has a handy app and website to show you which waters you can fish in, as well as the best slipways, piers, tackle shops, and fishing ponds.
Only certain bait is permitted, and certain species are protected. Make sure you check out the appropriate rules before your fishing trip lands you in trouble with the law.
For a peek at some of the best spots to cast off, check out this map from Fishing in Holland. In the Dutch capital, the Ij River behind Central Station, and the North Sea Canal are two particularly popular spots. The canals of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, and Groningen all offer their own spots too.
Street Fishing in Amsterdam
According to avid anglers, Amsterdam is the street fishing hotspot of Europe. The city hosts one of the continent’s largest street fishing tournaments every September, and tickets to this competition usually sell out in minutes. Street fishing is a year-round hobby though, and there’s a community of anglers who post their biggest catches on Instagram.
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We can tell you what kind of fish you’ll find, help you get a permit, and show you what some of the Netherlands’ best anglers are reeling in. But as for actually eating one of these canal-dwelling fish, that’s up to you.
Have you eaten a fish from a Dutch canal? Would you like to try one? Let us know on social media, and share your tips, recipes, or horror stories with the ExpatRepublic community!