Wooden fishing huts perched on piles above the sea along the Charente-Maritime coast are emblematic of this area, many dating from the late 19th century, but the oldest were constructed three centuries ago. They grew in numbers after the First World War, when most people got paid holidays. Some, the older style, are only accessible at low tide, but others have high jetties. If you want to acquire one for your own leisure, it could cost up to €35 000, depending on condition (and they are a lot of work to maintain, with some very strict rules that apply). Owners also pay a monthly fee to the Department of Maritime Affairs of about €400 (pro rata, based on the size of the cabin). There is a waiting list for concessions too, and prospective owners will need to wait for the previous generation to give them up.
The name carrelet refers to the square nets used to catch eels, prawns and mullet, which have been used by hand here since the 14th century. So strictly speaking we should talk of 'emplacements de pontons de pêche au carrelet' (square net fishing pontoon places). There are over 500 of these little cabins, sometimes brightly painted and providing a picturesque element in the landscape. They are now officially listed as cultural heritage.
The carrelets themselves are a 4 metre by 4 metre frame with a 12 millimetre mesh net. It allows fishermen to return unharmed any fish that are too small. The platforms have been equipped with pulleys and winches since the 19th century to assist with raising the nets.
The platforms must not exceed 20 square metres and the cabin must not be bigger than 10 square metres. Although fishing at night is allowed, you cannot sleep overnight in the cabin.
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