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 Dead carcasses hanging from warehouse ceilings have now been replaced by an almost endless array of fiberglass molds.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   These new materials resolved many of the problems associated with the outdated skin mount taxidermy.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 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) you are a lucky person indeed.

Another problem with traditional skin mounts was accuracy.   Taking a loose skin and stuffing it so I looked exactly like the fish it came from has always proved to be a difficult task.   Many mounts ended up appearing disproportionate, lumpy and, well just plan wrong.   During the process many of the scales dislodged and were lost and fins were often damaged beyond the point of repair.   Defect such as gaff marks were difficult or impossible to hide and the fish that were caught in distant locations created even more additional problems.

The introduction of fiberglass opened the door to a new era.   Over the past 35 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.   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.   There would be no sailfish left!

Instead, the sailfish population continues to improve each and every year.

To manufacture a release mount, marine artists now select a perfect game fish specimen, one that has superior features and proportions.   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 or more common “bondo teeth”.   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.   This is a trade secret, but not too hard to figure out.

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 better idea what the fish actually looks like than the angler.   He or she has studied the fish species in countless images and oftentimes hours of video, both surface and subsurface.   Some of this video is absolutely incredible.   And there isn’t a fish taxidermist or marine artist that isn’t a fisherman or diver.   We love what we do.

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 today just waiting to be caught again or put the mount on the wall and go out and catch one just like it!

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