Keen anglers that we are, we’re all hopeful of landing a trophy fish under astonishing circumstances.
Traditionally, we’ve mounted such fish for the future.
Once a very common practice, you may have thought the digital camera diminished the need.
The digital camera has been awesome for capturing special fishing moments – so why go through the lengthy process of mounting a fish when you can frame and hang a photo?
Despite digital convenience, mounting prize fish is still very popular and is enjoying a bit of a resurgence.
The question is, do we skin mount or make a replica? And how much does it cost to mount a fish?
In the following article, we’ll take a closer look at fish mounting. What’s the difference between skin mounting and a replica, and which is better?
And what do we need to do to have a fish mounted? Read on for those questions answered and more.
Table of Taxidermist Charges
Mounting a fish is a process performed by a taxidermist. A taxidermist is an artisan skilled at preserving a deceased animal in its living form.
Let’s cut to the chase with a table of indicative taxidermist charges. Fortunately, it’s not as expensive as you might imagine.
|Replica fish mounts -all species||$10-$16|
Saltwater, Cold, or Warm Water Fish
The first variation in mounting charges is based on where your fish was caught. Is it saltwater, warm water, or cold water fish?
Saltwater and cold water fish will cost more because of the higher oil content of the skin.
Longer drying is required, lengthening the mourning process.
By and large, taxidermists quote fish mounting per inch. The larger the fish, the more it will cost to mount. However, there are exceptions, which I’ll address later.
Indicative costs are as follows.
- Warm water fish such as bass and pike will cost around $11-$15/inch.
- Cold water species such as trout and salmon range between $14-$18/inch.
- If mounting saltwater species, including big marlin, sharks, and sailfish, expect to pay as much as $15-$20/inch.
Which is Better: Skin Mounts or Replica?
The difference between a replica and a skin mount is quite significant in several ways.
A replica is totally synthetic. There is no part of the living fish used to create a replica fish mount.
In the case of a skin mount, actual anatomical features are used to create the mount including the head, tail, and skin.
Let’s take a closer look at why you would select one over the other.
Fish Mount Durability and Longevity
If a skilled, experienced artisan creates a skin mount, you can expect your mount to last indefinitely.
However, as a taxidermist works with living tissue, there are risks involved. If not preserved correctly, over time, the mount could degrade.
This mostly comes down to the quality of the taxidermist.
By and large, they’re incredible craftspeople, with great pride in their skills. However, quality can vary, just like any artisan, craftsperson, or tradesperson.
Not all taxidermists are created equally. I’ll provide some tips on finding a taxidermist later.
There are also risks when storing and prepping the fish, from landing it to transporting it to the taxidermist.
Again, it’s living tissue, and a multitude of problems could arise.
You could damage the fish, the fish could thaw too early, or you may fail to prepare it properly upon capture.
In the case of a 100% synthetic replica, the issues associated with flesh are eliminated.
If mistakes are made when creating the mount, there’s a much better chance that these problems can be rectified.
Dead Fish – Living Fish. Replica V Skin Mount
To create a skin mount, the fish must die. You may think this isn’t a problem; we catch fish to eat all the time.
Certainly, this is the case, and we love fishing for the tasty food it provides, but with prize fish, it’s a different story.
Typically, when we mount a fish, it’s because it’s large, if not record-breaking.
The research is now unequivocal. Removing the largest, most mature fish from the ecosystem has grave consequences for fish conservation.
Firstly, large fish are the biggest breeders. They are responsible for the lion’s share of fish repopulation, retention, and growth.
Secondly, and possibly most critically, the largest, most mature species are survivors.
By virtue of their size, strength, and long life, they are the fittest of their species.
We need these fish to breed as it is their strong genes we wish to see passed on to the next generations. The survival of the fish species relies on it
With a replica trophy mount, the fish needn’t die. There are steps to ensure fish safety, but I’ll address that later.
While many anglers will have an emotional drive that wants part of the living creature in the trophy mount, it’s important to know that it will come at a cost to the ecosystem.
Moreover, if a skilled, experienced taxidermist creates a trophy, the differences between a replica and a skin mount are minimal.
The question becomes, why kill a critical breeding fish when there’s virtually no benefit? Furthermore, a replica is likely to be far more cost-effective.
What is the Cost of Replica Fish Mounts?
As noted earlier at the top of the price chart, a replica fish mount will cost around $10 to $16 per inch.
Let’s say you catch a record brown trout of 45 inches. The cost of a replica mount will be from $450 to $720.
If it’s a black marling you want to be replicated, the price will hurt a little more than that.
Black marlin can grow to 15 feet. Let’s say you land one of these monsters and want a mount. The price will be somewhere around $1,800-$2,880.
It’s worth noting that mounting very small fish will likely be charged per project rather than per inch.
For example, a 5-inch fish, based on the rates above, could cost as little as $50.
This is not a viable rate for a taxidermist. You can expect each taxidermist will advertise a minimum rate.
If commissioning a replica, there’s the added cost benefit and logistics benefit of not having to courier or transport a fish on ice to the taxidermist’s workshop.
What to do if You Want to Get a Fish Mounted?
One of my best tips is to decide long before you catch a prize fish that you will mount it if you do.
Do your research first. Check out taxidermists and their work, and identify who you would like to do the job. Do you want a replica or a skin mount?
Secondly, before you hit the water for a session, prepare as if you’re going to catch a prize you want to mount.
All too often, trophy fish are caught when you least expect it.
In many cases, you don’t have the equipment or know-how to launch a mounting project.
Here’s what you’ll need to do.
- Land the fish carefully to avoid skin damage. Avoid using a gaff if practical
- Dispatch the fish quickly using suffocation
- Take as many pictures as you can, focusing on any unique colors, and color vibrancy
- Rinse and clean the fish
- Lay it down with the most damaged side toward the ground
- Wrap it in a moist towel – keep it moist. Often a challenge with billfish
- Get it frozen and wrapped as soon as possible and sealed in plastic
- Make sure the fish is stored with the side you intend to show facing upwards
- Ensure enough time has passed to completely freeze the fish and notify the taxidermist and the courier.
Hopefully, you’ll be releasing this fish. Ensure you carry out the process swiftly and carefully.
- Land the fish carefully, just as you would for catch and release
- Measure length, lips to fork, lips to tail, lips to gill rakers. Measure thickness. Measure height – belly to base of dorsal, and measure the dorsal. Measure the thickness and weigh the fish.
While fish will usually be proportionate based on species, it’s not always the case, particularly with prize fish.
Often, particularly mature fish will have anatomical features that stand out, such as being very fat, having a large head, missing a pectoral fin, etc.
These details are important as it’s these details that make the catch special and memorable. The more detail the taxidermist has, the better they can replicate it.
- Take as many pictures as you can. Place a rod or reel in the picture or something with a recognizable size for context and proportion.
- Take your picture using natural light to bring out color features and vibrancy
- Return your fish to the water, and swim it to resuscitate, if required.
Selecting a Taxidermist
You’re not restricted to using a taxidermist in your local area. Skin mount or replica, the process can be managed remotely via courier, mail, and online
Most taxidermists can be located online. You’ll find websites with pictures of work samples, price lists, and reviews.
Another good way to locate a good taxidermist is when you see a mount, ask the owner where it was done.
It’s my preference to see a taxidermist’s work in person. I want to see their work up close and personal and ask questions.
Most importantly, I want to see the work they have done with fish.
I want to see their replica and skin mount portfolio, and I also want to know if they have experience mounting the fish I target.
When viewing a taxidermist’s portfolio and samples, make sure you ask the age of the mount. You can then assess the durability of their work.
The final question I ask relates to turnaround times. Having a mount created can take quite some time.
It’s variable, however, sometimes significantly, as several factors impact final delivery.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Fish Mounted?
Skin mounting a fish can take as little as a couple of months to as long as a year.
It should be noted that for skin mounting, a 2-month turnaround is probably the fastest turnaround possible.
You’re likely to find that your mounting job, regardless of the fish size, is going to take closer to 1 year.
The main reason for this seemingly inordinate length of time is probably due to the taxidermist having a lengthy backlog.
As I mentioned earlier, the tradition of having a fish mounted remains pretty popular, and you could argue there’s a bit of a resurgence.
I would also speculate that the craft has fewer specialists than it once had, compounding delays.
The main reason for a slow turnaround is a skin mount must go through a drying process.
Warm water fish can take at least 6 weeks, whereas cold water fish can take several months due to their oily skin.
The drying process is critical and should never be rushed. Hastened drying times can result in a poor outcome.
If you are in a desperate hurry, ask the taxidermists if they have a fast-track service. Yes, it will cost more, and possibly substantially more.
Alternatively, you could have a replica made. The turnaround time on that will be much faster and determined by the taxidermist’s workload.
It’s awesome to have mementos of our greatest fishing achievements. Photos are brilliant, but a trophy mount is extra-special.
Depending on the size of the fish and the value of the moment to you, it’s not really that expensive.
While skin mounts continue a tradition, consider the benefits of a replica. It’s far easier, faster, and cheaper, and as far as the end product is concerned, you’re unlikely to be able to see any difference between the two options.
Ultimately, if you choose to go replica, a mature fish – a legend and survivor, lives to breed and fight another day.