Taxidermy Fish and the Release Mount

Release mounts provide an attractive alternative to traditional skin mounts.   In fact, the advantages are so great that growing demand for release mounts has put skin mounts on the skids. Dead carcasses hanging from warehouse ceilings have now been replaced by an almost endless array of fiberglass molds.

For marine game fish, taxidermy is history.   Although a few traditional taxidermists remain, the industry began switching to fiberglass mounts in the mid 60’s just as boat builders began developing and refining the process of molding fiberglass boat hulls. The reason for the change was mainly due to the availability of the new materials and technology.   These new materials resolved many of the problems associated with the outdated skin mount taxidermy.

One of the biggest difficulties with producing skin mounts was the process of degreasing.   This initial step involved weeks of soaking the skins in chemical solutions to remove the oils contained within. Removing all of the oils was difficult and time consuming and in the case of certain fish, was nearly impossible to rid completely. Unsightly substances would soon ooze out, smell, attract insects and the fish mount would eventually turn yellow.   If you happen to see an old skin mount that has remained in good condition (and some certainly do still exist) a great deal of maintenance, repainting and environmental considerations are involved.  

Another problem with traditional skin mounts was accuracy.   Taking the carefully removed loose skin and stuffing it with sawdust, foam or whatever so it looked exactly like the fish has always proved to be a skillful and difficult task.  Many mounts ended up appearing disproportionate, lumpy and just plan wrong. During the process many of the scales dislodged and fins were often damaged. These had to be repaired or hidden and oftentimes the finished product suffered. Defects such as gaff marks or fish box damage were difficult or impossible to hide and fish that were caught in distant locations (or even close to home) created even more problems involving proper packaging, storage and refrigeration.

The introduction of fiberglass opened the door to a new era.   Over the years the reproduction process has been refined to perfection. In the meantime, conservation minded anglers coined the phrase, “Release Mounts” and started encouraging others to release their trophy catches unharmed and ready to fight another day.   For example, it’s hard to imagine what would have happened to our sailfish population had the charter fleet continued to bump off as many sailfish as they did. Instead, the sailfish population continues to improve each and every year.

To manufacture a release mount and make an exact copy of the fish using these new products. The resulting mold is used to reproduce an unlimited number of fiberglass casts which possess the exact artistic shape and anatomical features of the original fish. Dental acrylics are added to the cast with teeth made from rubber molds. The eyes are made of glass and gills produced using plastic, cardboard, foam or rubber.   Even the rough texture found on a sailfish bill can be reproduced.

To personalize the fiberglass mount, the final paint job can be customized according to the specific coloration and markings of each client’s fish. Or not. The accomplished marine artist usually has a good idea what the fish actually looks like. He or she has studied the fish species in countless images and oftentimes hours of video. 

Unlike the traditional skin mounts of the past, release mounts are lightweight, easy to install and usually only take a few weeks to produce. More importantly, anglers can now commemorate their prize catch with a release mount, knowing that their trophy is still out there swimming today.

In short, release mounts have proven to be a far superior product that provides greater opportunities for both the angler and the resource.