Some mounted fish are made from real fish; but the majority are not. Today, you can either release your fish back into the water, or you can eat it for dinner. The good news is that if you want to mount your fish, you can recreate your trophy catch with fiberglass mounts.
Taxidermy – The Traditional Way
Some people still make their mounts with real fish; however, this is very rare. The process involves removing all parts of the body apart from the tail, head, and skin. The eyes are taken out and the skin is cleaned on the inside. The shape of the fish remains, but it is hollow.
Chemicals are used to preserve the tail, head, and skin, the hollow shape is filled with material such as sawdust. The fins are dried out, this process is done very carefully to prevent them from cracking or shriveling, the remaining skin dries out slowly. A glass eye is added, and the skin is painted to make it look as authentic as possible.
The Negatives of a Traditional Fish Mount
Many anglers still use the natural method; however, there are several disadvantages to this way of creating a fish mount. The first issue is that you will need a dead fish; as you know, it is legal to keep the majority of dead fish if you wish. Most anglers catch fish to eat and not to hang on their walls. But it is illegal to keep some fish. It is also worth mentioning that there are some fish that just don’t make good mounts. For example, salmon and trout are difficult to work with because the skin is thin and greasy.
Another disadvantage of using real fish for mounting is that between the workshop and the net, the fish will need to be well-preserved. If fish gets too warm, or it dries out too much, you won’t be able to mount it. While some people have got the time to spend on preserving fish, most don’t, which doesn’t make it a very viable option for the majority of anglers.
Accuracy is another problem associated with traditional skin mounts. Stuffing loose skin so that it looks exactly like the live fish is a very difficult task. If you know anything about mounts, you will know that a lot of them end up looking odd, they are often lumpy and disproportionate. Many of the scales are often dislodged during the process, and the fins are damaged so badly, that it is impossible to repair them. Issues such as gaff marks are left in plain sight because they are too difficult to conceal.
One of the main problems that taxidermists have is with the degreasing process. With certain fish, this is very difficult and requires weeks of using chemical solutions to soak the skins to get the oils out. Because it is practically impossible to remove all the oil, once the fish has been mounted, eventually, horrible-looking substances would start oozing out of the fish and after a while it would turn an unsightly yellow color.
Fiberglass mounts have grown in popularity over recent years. For a lot of anglers, this has become the perfect solution to overcome the difficulties associated with traditional mounting. Fiberglass mounts are imitation fish, they look and feel just like the real thing. However, it must be done by a professional taxidermist who will gather as much information from the angler as they will need. This typically includes the weight, girth, and length of the fish. The angler will also need to provide a clear picture of the fish to make it easier to recreate the mount.
There are several reasons why fiberglass mounts make such a great alternative to using real fish. First, it eliminates all the hassle associated with using real fish; there is no risk of the skin shrinking, no need to worry about preserving the fish, or to concern yourself with cracked fins. Fiberglass also removes the problem of bad smells and deterioration.
Additionally, you can mount fish that are typically difficult to work with such as trout and salmon. Replicas are also great for anglers who wish to eat the fish they’ve caught or to throw them back into the water alive. Also, there is not much of a price difference between the traditional and fiberglass mounts. You can also have your fiberglass mount personalized to suit your specific needs.
Questions to Ask a Taxidermist
So now that you know all you need to know about the pros and cons of using real fish and fiberglass for your mounts, the next step is to hire a taxidermist. Nevertheless, you want to make sure you hire the right one, so here are some important questions you will need to ask before you hand over your hard-earned money.
Are They Licensed? Although the internet has many benefits, one of the downsides is that there are people who learn a skill by watching a few YouTube videos and then call themselves experts. Since taxidermists don’t come cheap, you want to ensure that the person you hire really is an expert, or you are going to have all types of unwanted issues with your wonderful mount – namely that you won’t be able to mount it.
In some states, taxidermists must be licensed to practice; the United States Fish and Wildlife require them to hold a license. Even if the taxidermist holds a federal license, if they don’t have a state one, it is no longer valid. You should also check that the license is current because they’ve got to be renewed once every five years.
Are They Insured? If your wall trophy is stolen or it gets damaged, you need to make sure you are covered, and the only way this is possible is if the taxidermist has got insurance. If not, it is advised that you look elsewhere because you never know what might happen.
How Long Have They Been in Business? You want to ensure that the taxidermist you are hiring has enough knowledge and experience to know what they are doing. As mentioned, this service is not cheap, and the last thing you want is to be throwing money down the drain. The bottom line is that consistency is the key to success, if a taxidermist has been in business for ten years plus, that is almost a guarantee that you are going to get a good service because a bad one won’t last that long. A newbie might be just as skilled as the person who has been working for ten years. But that does not provide you with a record of their consistency.
What Guarantees do They Provide? You want to know that you are going to get the product you’ve paid for. If the taxidermist provides you with some sort of guarantee, they are more likely to deliver on their promise. Basically, you want to know if they will repair your mount if something goes wrong.
Ask About Their Speciality: Ideally, you want a taxidermist that specializes in mounting fish. The reason being that if they spend the majority of their time mounting deer’s, they are not going to know much about mounting fish. So make sure the taxidermist specializes in mounting fish before you part with your money.
Ask For Their Social Media Accounts: I would be very suspicious of businesses who do not have an online presence. The reason being is that your customers have easy access to you online. Some companies who disable their social media accounts do so because their customers have written bad reviews or posted complaints directly to their social media pages. Taxidermists who are proud of their work will gladly display it online because they know that it will bring them more work.
Are They Affiliated With a Taxidermy Association? Associations hold ongoing training, seminars, and a host of other beneficial teachings that taxidermists can learn from. If they are a member of an association, ask when was the last time they went to one of their events and if they learnt anything in particular from it.
What Questions do They Have For You: In order to provide their clients with the best service, a taxidermist should want to know as much about your needs as possible. Therefore, ask them if they have any questions for you, and if they do, be sure to provide as much detail as you can.
So now that you know that some mounts are made out of real fish and some are made out of fiberglass, you can decide which out of the two you would rather choose. The bottom line is that whether you opt for a real fish or a fiber glass mount, you will need to ensure that you choose a reputable taxidermist who will guarantee that the job is done properly. The last thing you want is to part with your hard-earned money and for your mount to end up on the trash heap.