Frenchman Raphael Biagini is not your typical fisherman. At 30, he has a passion for big fish, very big fish. But not any big fish. Big carps. He is a specimen hunter. His biggest catch: a mirror carp he named "Nautilus," weighing more than 78 pounds.
His passion for carp started one early morning at the age of 12 when Biagini was trying to catch perch in a small French river. Suddenly, a carp rose to the bait. But it got away.
"A complete novice, I was fascinated by the strength of this 'opponent' which was unknown to me," he told ABC News. "This first fight was not a defeat but the beginning of a long passion. I'm convinced I was born for this.
"I like catching all kinds of fish," he added, "but I find the carp to have an identity. When you're rather an observer, it is easy to notice that none of the carps are identical."
For Biagini, a management assistant for an investment firm in Montpellier in the south of France, the main quality of a good carp-catcher is to be passionate. "For me, to be a good or a bad fisherman does not mean anything," he said.
"We don't fish to show the others who is the best, we do it for ourselves. In the end, whatever Mr. X or Y catch, only the notions of pleasure and well-being have an importance."
Besides being equipped with the appropriate gear to catch such a strong and heavy fish, a carp catcher needs to be a sharp strategist. "This is a fish that, to be duped, demands the use of real fishing strategies, such as in a chess game," he said.
"This is a powerful fighter, which knows perfectly how to make use of its environment to defend itself."
Experience and some luck do the rest.
There is no real method to catch a big fish, Biagini said. "Before wanting to catch a giant fish, one must be able to catch just one, even a modest size carp," he said.
"When one thinks he understands how to trap one, it's the accumulation of factors, sometimes uncontrollable for some of them, that will make the catching of a fish possible."
A Mattress for Carp at Rest
A practitioner of what is known in the fishing world as "no-killing" or "catch and release," Biagini does not kill his catches. When he pulls the fish out of the water, he places it on a specially made mattress, called a "reception mattress," to protect it.
He then takes a picture of it before putting it back in the water. "Today, the goal is to no longer catch the fish to eat it, which is respectable as well, but to share with nature" he said. "This is a new state of mind that attracts more and more young people."
The biggest known carp in the world is French and weighs 99 pounds. But it comes from a private domain where fishermen pay a fee to go fishing, which is not quite the same for Biagini.
"Personally, I don't consider this fish to be a true world record since it does not swim in the public domain and since it is not wild," he said.
The world record for a public domain is also French, with a mirror carp caught this year that weighed 85 pounds. A catch out of the ordinary? A fabulous red carp Koi weighing 30 pounds.
"For a carp, this weight is not particularly exceptional," he said. "But to be able to catch a wild Koi is exceptional."
Biagini took pleasure fishing in the waters of the St. Lawrence River in the U.S. northeast. "I caught quite a few carps," he said. "The biggest ones weighed about 33 pounds. But I also saw some much bigger carps."
"I dream of catching a carp that does not exist, or at least, one we don't know about yet," he continued.
"The one that swims in my wildest dreams and swims away when I open my eyes. In concrete terms, I sometimes get excited about the thought of catching two carps weighing more than 66 pounds the same night. It is rather unlikely, but when it comes to dreaming, everything is possible."
Biagini, who is a regular contributor to various fishing publications, is writing an autobiography on his 18-year experience as a fisherman. "I wish to pass on to my readers my passion and my experience through the thousands of catches I made, the bad ones and the good ones," he said. "What counts to me, it's the part of dream that there is in fishing that I want to pass on".
Biagini is also looking for a sponsor, which would allow him to go further in his passion and to whom he could bring his experience.