072515002As a world renowned wildlife artist with more then 25 years of passionate commitment to the production of high quality fish mounts (skin mounts), fiberglass fish replicas and habitat recreations, I am convinced that a fish replica produces a far superior fish mount when compared to traditional methods of taxidermy.

There are several reasons why I would choose a replica over the traditional mount. When doing a mounting a fish in the traditional method, the taxidermist takes the trophy fish and creates a silhouette stencil of the fish by tracing the fish. He would then proceed to make a large incision down the backside of the fish in order to remove the carcass from the fish. Once the carcass has been removed from the fish skin, the taxidermist will begin to flesh and remove all excess meat and tissue from the skin. This is done in hopes of reducing the chances of the skin rotting and creating any pockets of oil that would eventually migrate to the surface of the scale causing the final paint to delaminate then flake.

After the fish skin has been cleaned and treated, the silhouette of the stencil is then transferred onto a solid piece of Styrofoam. The taxidermist would then begin to carve a Styrofoam armature as close to the original carcass as possible. This is one of the most challenging parts of fish taxidermy. If the Styrofoam armature is not carved identically to the fish, the fish mount will end up looking quite distorted. In most cases in the taxidermy world, we would have to carve the armature smaller than the original trophy fish to allow the skin to shrink. If this step is not done properly, the incision on the back of the fish mount will become quite visible and will then have to be covered with felt or an epoxy filler to hide it.

I personally have done close to three thousand fish mounts in my career and have become an expert at carving fish bodies. I have come to the realization that the client’s fish mount will never have the same body structure and will always be smaller than the original dimensions and weight. Once the fish has been properly taxied onto the armature, all shrunken areas on the mount must be filled; for example, cheeks, caudal peduncle and fin bases. In most cases the throat and gills are also removed due to excessive amounts of trapped oil.

At this stage the fish is left to dry for several months, the longer the better. In oily fish like salmon and trout up to a year is to be expected. During the time the skin mount dries, the taxidermist should clean the fish down with a solvent to remove accumulating surface oil. This should be done throughout the complete drying process. Once the fish mount is no longer bleeding oil, the assembly and painting process begins.

Most taxidermists fill in the remaining shrunken areas on the fish mount with very rigid automobile bondo virtually eliminating the required flexibility of the entire fish mount. Bondo does not shrink and swell during climate changes like the skin will and often results in fine cracks developing where the car bondo is feathered and filled onto the mount. This problem is compounded during the high humidity of the summer months as the filled areas on the fish are unable to react to the excessive levels of moisture present during this season. When this part of the process is complete, the fish mount is now ready to be painted.

The same issues that were created with the bondo are now going to apply with the paint. The natural pores on the fish have a tendency to swell during the summer months, allowing additional oil to bleed up to the surface causing the paint to come away from the fish mount. To avoid these issues two simple words come to mind fiberglass fish.

Why? it is rather simple.

The way we generate our fish replicas is a relatively complex process but extremely effective. To create a replica of a fish using our techniques, a fresh fish is required to start. Posing the fish naturally is one of the keys to a good replica. Once the fish has been posed we begin to take a cast off the throat of the fish by using a liquid molding material the same viscosity as water. This molding material will flow through the complete throat giving the fish replica the exact throat details originally found on the fresh fish. The second step would be to take an rtv silicone rubber in its liquid state and pour this on the complete fish encapsulating the fish entirely. The reason we use a flexible silicone for our molding process is that it allows us to peel the soft rubber mold off the fish reproduction eliminating any chance of detail loss. Once the silicone is cured, we build a fiberglass jacket. This aids in keeping the natural body structure of the fresh fish. Once the fiberglass jacket is cured we then proceed to mold the opposite side.

We now have a silicone mold off of a fresh fish. One of the significant advantages of this process is that it eliminates the incision typically found on a mounted fish, and because the mold was generated off of a fresh fish the silicone will pick up the exact anatomy originally found on that fish. Our fish replicas will have minute details such as each and every scale replicated exactly. In fact, you will be able to count the growth rings on the scales and age the fish. On small scaled fish like lake trout and brook trout, it is even common to see the rib cage through the skin and scale tissue.

After the fish has been cast, a fish of that species, in that slot size is no longer required for a mold. This enables a client to catch a fish and then release it, allowing us to reproduce a replica of the fish that has been returned to its natural environment.

Fish replicas when done properly should have flawless skin alignment as well as scale and throat details. Our oldest units date back over twenty five years and look as though they have just been completed. Using the highest quality automotive paints and clear- coats, gives us the advantage of working with very stable products that have been designed specifically to withstand extreme climate changes. In other words, the fish replica is not only memorable for the client, it will be shared by generations of families for many years to come.

Take a look at some of our beautiful works of art. Go to: http://www.advancedtaxidermy.com – This quality is years ahead of anyone else.

http://www.advancedtaxidermy.com You will be amazed.