Are Fish Mounts Made from Real Fish

If you have ever spent time in a big sporting goods store, like Bass Pro Shops, then you surely have noticed all the incredible fish mounted on the walls.  Most anglers gaze up with envy at everything from huge marlin to jumbo bass, but have you ever wondered if those shiny mounts are real fish?

So, are fish mounts made from real fish?  Taxidermy mounts made from real fish usually only contain the skin, teeth, head and fins.  The body portion consists of a light weight foam mold on which the skin and other fish parts are mounted.   Most fish mounts are actually painted fiberglass replicas.

There are some important things to know when the opportunity to catch a trophy fish comes knocking.  Read on to learn more about taxidermy options, costs, fish preparations, and other important information to keep your fish looking as beautiful as the day you caught it.

How is a fish mounted

One of these days, you could very well catch the fish of a lifetime. Pictures are great, but sometimes they just don’t do the size of a fish justice.  If you want to really show off your fishing prowess to your buddies, consider making your trophy a permanent mount on the wall. 

Skin mounts

Using actual fish parts for mounting is slowly becoming a thing of the past.  As anglers become more aware of the importance of fishery conservation, catch and release practices make real fish mounts impractical.  Even so, taxidermists still get clients insisting on live mounts.  

Live fish are mounted using the skin, fins, parts of the head and sometimes the teeth.  Fish are far more delicate than most animals when it comes to mounting.  Proper preparation is essential to ensure a high quality result.  The taxidermist will skin the fish and use a preservative on the fish parts to be saved.  Once the skin and other portions of the fish are dry, they are added to a foam mold that makes up the main body of the fish.  

The next steps are where the taxidermist’s artistic ability really shines.  Life like poses and painting a fish to mimic true-to-life colors is no small feat.  Usually only one side of the fish is painted for wall mounts.  Pedestal mounts will have both sides painted.  Once painted, a clear coat layer is applied to protect it for years to come.  

Replica mounts

If releasing the fish back to the water is your aim, then consider a fiberglass replica instead.  It may not be the real thing, but it just might look better anyway.  Here are a few things to consider when deciding between taking a fish to the taxidermist or releasing it to fight another day.

The modern day fiber glass reproductions are truly life-like.  They are molded from real fish so all the details are present.  If the paint job is done by a skilled taxidermist, you will never be able to tell the difference between a skin mount and a replica.

Many taxidermists have access to a large number of custom sizes from fish mold suppliers.  This makes matching the exact size of your fish easier than ever.  

It may not be the real fish you caught but it sure is a great way to commemorate the catch.  It is also a much faster time to completion.  A picture of the fish at the time you caught it is key to getting an accurate recreation of the fish.  A good taxidermist will work with you and your picture to recreate the memory of your fish.

Regardless of the type of mount you get, it is important to do your homework when selecting a taxidermy shop.  All taxidermy requires skill and artistic abilities.  Don’t trust your dollar or trophy to someone without hearing feedback from actual customers.

5 easy steps to prepare a fish for taxidermy

Okay, you decided to keep the fish and take it to a taxidermist.  Now what?  To make sure your mount is as pretty as can be, follow these five simple steps.

Step 1

Take a good picture as soon as possible.  Fish begin losing their best colors within two minutes.  Snap a picture as soon as you pull it from the water to give the taxidermist the best chance at painting the exact colors.  Limit how much you handle the fish to prevent damage to the scales and do not gut the fish.

Step 2

You never know when something could go wrong.  If for some reason the fish is lost or damaged before getting it to a taxidermist, taking a few measurements if possible is a good idea.  First, measure the length from nose to tail.  Then, take a girth measurement around the fattest portion of the body.  If you have a scale, weigh it too.  Now you can get an accurate replica made if need be.

Step 3

Freeze your fish as soon as possible.  Choose which side is best and remember to always keep that side up.  This will be the visible side of the mount.  Place it good side up on a flat surface in the freezer and leave it until it is solid throughout.  This takes about three days.  Do not put the fish in a bag or wrap it in newspaper.

Step 4

Even though the fish is now frozen, it can still be damaged by rough handling. Some taxidermists recommend misting the fish with water to form an ice coat.  Several applications of water will provide a protective jacket when transporting it to the taxidermy shop.

Step 5

Now you are ready to take it in to a taxidermist.  Once the fish is frozen, it is okay to put it in a bag for easy carrying.  Take it in a cooler to prevent it from thawing out.  After you select a local taxidermist, I recommend contacting them to see if they have any additional instructions.

How much does it cost to mount a fish

Getting any animal or fish mounted is not going to be cheap.  You are paying for the skill and artistic talent of the taxidermist.  The old saying, “you get what you pay for” rings true.  Even so, if it is truly a trophy of a lifetime, it will be worth every penny.  

After a little research, I found that the going rate for both replica and live fish mounts is about $16 per inch of fish for one side.  To give you some perspective, the average sailfish is over 9 feet long and will cost roughly $1500.  A trophy bass, on the other hand, may be only 24 inches long and cost around $400.  Some taxidermists offer discounted prices for longer fish species.

Obviously, if you want both sides of the fish mounted and painted for pedestal mounts, you must double the price.  Also, these costs do not include plaques or other mount décor. 

How do you clean a wall mounted fish

Over time dust, sunlight and smoke can impact the life of a mount.  Skin mounts generally do not last as long as replica mounts because of the fragile nature of the thin skin.  Either way, regular maintenance can keep your mount in tip top shape for years to come.

Dust regularly with a slightly damp, lint free cloth.  Air dusters work well for loose dust and will reduce the risk of damage.  Be careful around the delicate fins.  Sometimes it is easier to remove the fish from the wall and lay it on a flat surface.  

To make the mount last even longer, avoid hanging it where it receives direct sunlight.  The damaging UV rays will fade the colors overtime, especially on skin mounts.  

Fire place smoke or cigarette smoke will slowly discolor fish mounts as well.  Smoke build up cannot be removed by wiping or cleaning the mount.  Take it into a professional taxidermist to be stripped and refinished.

Final thoughts

Fish mount are a great way to share your adventure of a lifetime with friends and family.  A fish on the wall means proof of a catch and bragging rights to go with it.  Getting a skin mount from a real fish or a replica mount is a personal choice.  The replica mounts available now days offer the ability to exactly match your fish’s size and look.  They also last longer and in most cases look better too.