Fishing for compliments

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Reviewed on 07/5/2011 | No Reviews

Portraits

Philippe Picard: The man who loves the Seine

If one day you walk down the banks of the Seine and you see a guy fishing, then don’t be surprised: this is Philippe. Philippe Picard, 66 years, a retired baker, dressed up as if going for war. A passionate man, waiting for the fish to take the bait. Or for people to stop and talk.

When Philippe first sat down here on the Quai d’Orléans of Ile St-Louis, people thought he must be crazy. “Escaped from Saint-Anne, the famous madhouse of Paris”, as he puts it. They took him to the police station. But back then, Jacques Chirac was Mayor of Paris and he quite liked the idea of people fishing in the Seine. Chirac promissed that, once his term of office finished, the Seine would be so clean that he would jump in.

The salmon is back

It never happened, too bad. The Parisians never saw their former Mayor and future President in a swimsuit – although the water quality of the Seine has been widely improved the recent years. Back then in 1995 there were only four species surviving in the Seine. Today you can find 33 different species of fish, some of them very sensible species like the barbel. Even the salmon is back, after a century of absence.

Phlippe's fishing friends: Christian and Gérard

If you walk down the Seine, you can’t miss Philippe. He’s somewhere, from early morning until late at night, sitting there on his camping stool, patiently waiting, observing. I told you, he’s passionate. People sometimes think that he’s a clochard, needing to fish for lunch or dinner. But he doesn’t eat the fish that he pullsout of the Seine. Too much PCBs. You’re not allowed. Philippe fishes for fun. He throws the fish back into the water.

A baker turned fisherman

Better still, last December, he and his friends, Christian and Gérard, released 620 pikes, not small ones, big ones of 40 centimetres. It had cost him more than 3000 Euros. Crazy, Philipp? Yes, a bit.

After talking for a while, he hands over a sheet with his annual closing of accounts: in 2010 he spent 1055 hours fishing, 462 in the morning, 593 in the evening. He pulled out 488 fishes of a total weight of 270 kilos. A bureaucrat, no, a fisherman!

On his account too: he saved 28 people from drowning. If you want to commit suicide, you’ll better find a place far away from Philippe. “I insult people, I’m swearing at them, that makes them struggle all the sudden.”

He then proudly shows photos of fishes huge like monsters: a carp measuring one and a half meters. Is he really never tempted to eat the fish? “Sometimes”, Gerard admits, “we hand some fish over to my Portuguese concierge. He doesn’t mind. And he never had pimples!”

Paris Plage

Meanwhile, Philippe is part of the Parisian landscape. He has already screened in a movie, La fille du RER, and he even inspired a writer for a detective novel. Read Ingrid Astiers book Quai des enfers, and you’ll discover Philippe behind the character of Piero Ludo, garde-pêche, fishery guardian. In a couple of days starts his favourite season of the year: Paris Plage. Philippe just loves it. It’s like true vacation for him. “I will have a lot of spectators.”

You really can’t miss him. On his camouflage suit Philippe is wearing a name badge: Philippe Picard, garde-peche. And proud to be it.

Here is a small documentary about Philippe Picard:

Le pêcheur de Paris Plages : une rencontre à… par mairiedeparis

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