Advanced Taxidermy

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Conservation Through the Art of Replication

You've just landed the biggest bass of your life. A six pound smallmouth, or maybe a seven pound largemouth, and you're on top of the world. But you're by yourself, so there's no one around to witness your accomplishment. In Canada, this is a fish of a lifetime, and although photos are nice, you want something a little more three dimensional to capture the memory. You know our Canadian bass can take 15-20 years to reach this weight in some parts of the country. You always practice catch and release, but still ... you've promised yourself that if you ever get that bass of a lifetime you'll have it stuffed and preserved for posterity on your wall. You don't want to kill it but you've got no choice; right? Wrong! Thanks to the artists at Advanced Taxidermy in Caledon, Ontario, there is a better option.

Award-winning taxidermists Shawn Galea and James McGregor created Advanced Taxidermy while they were still in high school and soon thereafter they pioneered a unique new way to create a reproduction of just about any fish that swims; a replica that is far superior to any traditional skin mount while allowing that trophy to continue to swim, grow, reproduce and be caught again another day.

The Beginning Of Advanced Replicas:
Early in their careers, Shawn and James realized that even championship quality taxidermy work could never prevent the real skin from a traditional fish mount from eventually drying out, cracking, and just generally deteriorating. After some experimentation, Shawn and James developed a unique process whereby a liquid moulding material with the viscosity of water is poured over a freshly-caught fish, creating a mould that can be used to produce an unlimited number of reproductions of similar size. Although other taxidermists were also creating replica mounts, their moulds were being cast from skin mounted fish, which resulted in replicas that reflected the numerous imperfections in the original, often poor-quality skin mount. Advanced Taxidermy's technique, however, is so realistic and true to life that the age of the original fish can be determined by examining the age rings in the reproduction's scales.

Twenty-five years later, Advanced Taxidermy has amassed a "library" of nearly 6,000 moulds of various species, in all shapes and sizes. Their collection of bass moulds runs the gamut from a one-pound smallmouth, all the way up to a 20-pound near-record largemouth (caught in California), and peacock bass too.

Replicas Last Forever:
Because only the most modern techniques and materials are employed, Advanced Taxidermy reproductions are not only as lifelike as the real thing, but they will also stay that way forever. So they won't ever deteriorate, but what if that reproduction of your bass of a lifetime is lost, stolen or somehow destroyed? No problem. Shawn and James can easily re-create it for you. You can even display your trophy outside, above a fireplace, or in direct sunlight, all things that could never be done with a skin mount. And if you should ever decide that you need to part with your reproduction, it can be legally sold, which can't be said for actual skin mounts due to laws in many jurisdictions like Ontario, against trafficking in fish and wildlife parts.

If these weren't already good enough reasons to choose a reproduction over a skin mount, consider that while the costs are about the same (starting around $450), the reproduction can be proudly hanging on your wall in only four to six months, while a skin mount will easily take twice that long. Due to rules restricting shipment of animal products, and the difficulty of keeping the fish frozen or otherwise preserved in transit, it is also logistically problematic to get a trophy fish home to your taxidermist from the remote, northern or Deep South fly-in lodges that produce so many trophy fish.

Replica Mounts Benefit Conservation:
Despite these obvious advantages, the most compelling reason to choose a reproduction over a skin mount is the benefit to conservation. Simply put, fish take a long time to grow to trophy proportions, especially in Canada's cold waters. These specimens are also frequently the prime spawners, and represent critical brood stock for future generations. Extraordinarily large bass also possess the genetic capabilities to produce superior offspring (one reason why the State of Texas Share Lunker Program* asks anglers to donate live bass caught that are over 13lbs. These bass are used for the state hatcheries and ultimately Texas has a goal to produce the next world record largemouth).

So you've now wisely decided that you are going to ask Shawn and James to work their magic for you so that you can release that lunker bass, but not so fast. Because Advanced Taxidermy has so many different sized bass moulds, they need at least one nice, clear, colour photo of your trophy, and preferably the length and girth measurements. The photo is of particular importance when it comes to the painting of your reproduction, as it is at that stage that your mount is elevated from a very realistic reproduction of the fish you caught, to a three-dimensional piece of wildlife art. In fact, Advanced Taxidermy can use one good photo to create a lasting reminder of that first fish from your childhood, even without measurements, and make it look better than if you'd had a skin mount made of that "trophy" 12-inch bass you were so proud of.

Okay, now you can gently slide the fish back into the water. With all of these benefits, it's not surprising that about 95% of the fish mounts done by Advanced Taxidermy these days are reproductions. But not all of those customers intended to get a reproduction.

Click here for more info on Texas Share Lunker program

"We still get people who bring their fish to us to do a skin mount, but once we explain the advantages of a reproduction and the customer sees how extremely realistic our work is, most of them choose the reproduction," Shawn Galea said. But isn't that too late for the fish that's already been kept?

"Yes, but we not only use that fish to create a reproduction for that customer, we use that mould to create reproductions for future customers. So although that one fish was sacrificed, it can save a hundred more down the road," Shawn added.

In order to encourage catch and release and promote conservation, and give back to the sport of fishing in general, Advanced Taxidermy also supports initiatives such as the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Ontario Record Fish Registry – by donating reproductions for each new Ontario record fish – and the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open bass tournament – by creating and donating the champion's trophy, featuring a reproduction trophy Lake Simcoe smallmouth.

Advanced Taxidermy creates hundreds of fish reproductions each year, for both Canadian and American anglers, as well as businesses such as Bass Pro Shops. Although they have now produced thousands of fish reproductions over the last 25 years, each one is still carefully created and crafted by Shawn Galea and James McGregor. That's a lot of happy customers, and a lot of trophy fish left alive to fight another day.

Now, what did you say is the name of the lake where you caught that monster bass?

First Run North American Print Serial Rights
Copyright D. Sangster 2009

Don Sangster
2455 Conquest Drive Mississauga, Ontario
(905) 270-7865
donsangster2@sympatico.ca

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