The life histories of freshwater fish are widely studied because they represent fundamental determinants of population performances. However, a gap remains in our understanding of how species traits may predispose species to extinction in a changing environment. In this study, based on a large data set provided by the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environment (325 sites), we analysed factors that explain the probability of local extinction in 40 freshwater species across French rivers. A total of five traits characterised the demography of 40 species, and eight environmental parameters at the 325 sites were examined. Our results agreed closely with an empirical classification of freshwater fish in temperate regions, conforming to three‐endpoint continuum of life‐history ‘strategies’ of species (equilibrium, periodic and opportunist). The probability of local species extinction was closely related to species traits. Equilibrial species tended to show lower annual extinction rates, whereas opportunistic species and, above all, periodic ones exhibited higher extinction values. Nevertheless, prediction of species local extinctions is not trivial and depends not only on particular suites of life‐history traits but also on their interaction with environmental conditions along the longitudinal river continuum.