In all of my years of fishing and the thousands of fish I have caught, I have had exactly one fish mounted. In high school I had a buddy who was teaching himself taxidermy, so when I caught a big pike, still my biggest at 40 inches, I took it over and had him mount it. I think I paid him $25. The mount ain’t much, but it does have all kinds of sentimental value. Oh, and that high school buddy, he has gone on to be an excellent taxidermist specializing mostly in birds, fish–well, not so much.
Maybe I will have another fish or two mounted some day, and if I do I know exactly what that mount will be–a graphite reproduction mount. Regardless of species, I release all of the big fish I catch and know that if I choose to honor one of those notable catches with a mount I can release the fish and still get a graphite reproduction. Not only that, but I would tell you that even if the fish was harvested I would still choose to get a reproduction mount. Let me show you some pictures and tell you why.
We have a bunch of fish mounts around the office. A lot of those mounts have been around here for a long time. Take for example this old skin mount of a walleye.
There is no tag on that old mount, but I am pretty sure I know who mounted that fish and it was one of the best taxidermists in the state. That old skin mount has been around here for a long time, dozens of years.
Now, take a look at this mount, this one also has been around our office for a long time, not as long as the old skin mount, but over a decade.
Disregard the difference in sizes of the fish and the artsy driftwood plaque on the first mount. Compare the color between those two old mounts, the first mount is a skin mount, the actual fish, and the second mount is a graphite reproduction. The old skin mount does not look too bad until you stop and consider what the colors should really be.
Take a closer look at the old skin mount, notice especially the fins.
And, notice the scales.
For comparison, take a look at the same views of the graphite reproduction mount.
I do not think you will have to look too hard to notice the differences; the fading and yellowing, the cracked fins, the curling and missing scales on the old skin mount.
Let me tell you about some other differences that are not obvious in the photos. If you would pick up each of those mounts, and the reproduction mount is a walleye that is a lot larger, you would notice a significant difference in the weight of the two mounts. Surprisingly, it would not be the mount of the largest fish that weighs the most. Let me put it this way, the skin mount weighs more than the fish ever weighed when it was alive. The reproduction mount is a lot lighter and is a mount that could be hung anywhere. I have a walleye graphite reproduction mount that I take on the road for display purposes and I can hang it on a display board with nothing but velcro.
Taxidermists who do reproduction mounts have told me that the reproductions are easy to repair. As you can see, over time, the fins and scales on skin mounts are going to crack, break and curl. Repairing old skin mounts is not easy. The graphite reproduction mounts can get knocked around and busted too, believe me, but repairing or replacing fins on them is easy. In addition the scales will never curl or fall off the reproduction mounts and the colors never fade.
I have heard anglers say that they do not want no reproduction mount, they want the real fish. As I stated at the beginning of this post, I can understand the sentimental value. But what are we being sentimental about? We are remembering, honoring, a big fish, a trophy, a memorable catch. Would that memory best be honored years later by a cracking, curling, fading skin mount of the actual fish, or by a quality reproduction mount that is going to look good for years and years?
Yes, the graphite reproduction mounts are more expensive. Again I would argue that they are worth the extra investment to begin with because they will look better for a lot longer, and if they need repairs in the future that will be a lot easier and less expensive. If I am going to have a fish mounted, I want that memory to be represented by a quality mount that will look good for the rest of my life.
We have a bunch of fish mounts in our offices for display purposes. Most of those are reproduction mounts. “Back in the day” when we first started ordering those display mounts they were advertised as graphite reproductions. I see taxidermists advertising fiberglass reproductions now. I will not pretend that I know if there is a difference between those two and I wonder if they are in fact be the same thing. If you are interested in a reproduction mount, you might want to ask a taxidermist that question. I do know that fish that are more oily and fatty, fish like paddlefish and catfish, have always been mounted using some type of reproduction mount–a taxidermist simply cannot preserve the oily skin from those species of fish. So reproduction mounts always have been made for some species of fish, but the graphite or fiberglass forms used today are lighter and provide more detail and a more real form.
A lot of taxidermists offer reproduction mounts now. If you have a favorite local taxidermist, ask if they do reproduction mounts. I am sure many, if not most of them do. I will tell you who has done a lot of our reproduction mounts, but when I do so I am not saying that they are better than any of our local taxidermists. I just know that these guys have been doing graphite reproductions for a long time and we have been happy with their work, http://www.artisticanglers.com/index.htm .
If you choose to have a reproduction mount you will want pictures of the fish. You will need to measure the length of the fish and then snap a few quick photos, and that will be all the “data” needed for a taxidermist to create a reproduction mount. The mounts I have seen made from good pictures have been excellent, exact replicas of that individual fish.
If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas, it is probably too late to get a reproduction mount done. But, think about it, a reproduction fish mount would be an excellent gift idea, maybe for a child’s first fish? Maybe for an exceptional or especially memorable catch you shared with a loved one? Maybe to replace an old skin mount that has seen better days?
There you go, there are all the reasons why the next fish mount I have done will be a reproduction mount. Besides all of that, remember that big fish are hard to catch not because they are so smart, but because they are so rare. I will continue to release big fish, even big panfish, because those fish are worth more in the water than on my wall or in a frying pan. If I choose to mount another fish some day, it will be a reproduction mount. The mount will be better, will better honor an exceptional catch and I can release that fish to grow and be caught again!