The « grunting » Fish of the Gironde estuary : the Meagre !

retour peche au maigre

End of May, begining June, the fishing harbour of Mortagne comes alive. Just after high tide, many curious come to welcome the return of the fishing boats

A rare fish, fished in an unorthodox way!

The meagre is a fish whose populations are found from Norway to the Congolese coasts and from Gibraltar to the northern shores of the Black Sea.
Meagre populations reproduce only in 3 separates regions of the globe:

  • in Mediterranean with a breading area in the Nile Delta;
  • in northwest Africa with a breading area in Lévier Bay (Mauritania);
  • in the Biscay Bay where the meagre breed in the estuary of the Gironde.

Yes, it is near the Marguerites bench between Meschers and Mortagne-sur-Gironde that is the only known breeding area in the Biscay Bay.

Muscles are required to unload the meagres !

In the estuary of the Gironde, this fish is called a « grunt ». Not because of his character, but because the male emits rumblings at the time of reproduction. In the Saintonge region we say that the meagre « seille » ! If the fisherman has a poetic soul, it is called the song of the meagre.

The sound emitted by the fish is audible from the boat. These rumblings makes the fishing very special. Indeed to identify meagre gatherings, the fisherman put his ear at the bottom of his boat to locate those « grunts ». 

Some explanation from Sébastien Lys one of the last fishermen of Mortagne :

Once the fish aboard (with nets), fishermen mix carefully in a bucket semen of male with eggs of females, before rejecting all in the water to save the reproduction of the species.  Since they do this(beginning in the 1990) they catch more every year!!!

Bateaux peche maigre Mortagne
Two boats back from the meagre fishing

Meagre on the table

Meagre is a carnivorous fish. Some specimens can reach a height of 2 m and a weight of 60 kg. Individuals are more commonly found from 50 cm to one meter, weighing 10 to 30 kg. Its longevity does not exceed fifteen years.

Enorme maigre Mortagne Stephen Lys
Stephen Lys, Sébastien’s son, in june 2016 with a 58,7 kg meagre !

Unknown because only local fishmongers sell it, the meagre is, for those who are lucky to find one, delicious and comparatively cheap (lately Japan and China are starting to buy them, excellent fish for Sushi!!). Its flesh is firmer and finer than the bar and we recommend a barbecue/smoking oven to cook, recipe validated by all our guests!

  • un meagre ;
  • herbs that you like (thyme, savory, sage, rosemary, parsley …)
  • lemon ;
  • olive oil ;
  • white or rose wine ;
  • salt and pepper.
  1. Prepare your grill.
  2. Empty and wash the meagre. Do not chip the fish.
  3. Put the meagre on a greased aluminium foil. (several layers, juce has to stay in)
  4. Brush inside and outside of the fish with olive oil and garnish with the mixture of herbs and lemon slices. on the skin a layer of sea salt.
  5. Close the aluminium to wrap the meagre. If you have a barbecue with a lid so it is not necessary to wrap. Simply reassemble the edges of the aluminum to prevent the juices from flowing into the barbecue. (bottle of white or rose wine in the foil)
  6. Bake 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the fish).
A beautiful meagre in préparation au Domaine du Meunier !
Préparation du maigre au barbecue
A little seasoning before baking.
The meagre is ready for tasting !

You can serve it with small new potatoes and horseradish cream sauce .

For all those who come at Domaine du Meunier or in the region, we advise you to go to see the arrival of the meagre and above all to taste this wonderful fish. In summer, the local restaurants often serve meagre.