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Fiberglass Lasts Longer For Better, More Realistic Mounts.

Let's be honest, catch and release is a practice that's more popular now than ever before. In fact, it's a practice that is going tot have to be followed to some extent if our sport fishery is to remain sound and productive in the future. There's no denying that I love to eat fish. Matter of fact, besides enjoying the sport of fishing, there's nothing I love more than munching down on a fresh fillet of deep fried walleye or a plate of boiled Great Lakes salmon, potatoes and onions. I just plain love eating fish. Still I'm more than mindful of the consequences of killing too many fish. I don't concern myself too much with keeping a limit of Georgian Bay salmon.

These are fish that, for the most part, have been stocked on a 'put, grow, and harvest' philosophy. When I'm up in the bush filming a television show, I also don't have any regrets keeping a limit of walleye, bass or lake trout for a shore lunch for the film crew and myself. The same can be said for retaining the occasional limit of Lake Erie walleye. If the Ontario government believes it's acceptable for the commercial industry to harvest nine million walleye, doesn't it seem reasonable that I should be able to keep a limit of these tasty critters now and then? There's also the argument that 'too' much catch and release might not be a good thing, either. If we don't eat the odd fish now and then, I'm betting that we will begin to care less for the environment our fish have to live in. On our annual winter film pilgrimage, I like to note that I can raise bass and rainbow in a septic tank, but that doesn't mean I'm going to eat them. If we eat a few fish, we darn well wouldn't want them growing up in a sewer. If we don't eat a few…well, who knows? I'm also firmly against the practice of catching of catching and keeping big spawning or pre-spawning fish. Sure the biggest fish of the year come just before the spawn period, but let's be honest, pre-spawn fish, especially trout, salmon and walleye, taste more like a pair of old rubber boots when hooked, killed and cooked at this time of the year. It always amazes me that more steelhead hunters prowl the streams and piers at spawning time than in autumn. The trout of spring are most often dark and soft, something like a pair of old rubber boots, don't you think. Now the fish of autumn, those are the real beauties, big, rambunctious, silver creatures that are delicious to eat as well. It's also ridiculous to kill those big, dark spawners, when you think that they are carrying tomorrow's sport fishery in their bellies.

As for the actual fish I do keep, they're most often small fish. From a connoisseur's viewpoint, let me state that smaller is better. It's always firmer and almost always milder tasting.

Mounting That Trophy

It's my opinion that the greatest sin a fisherman can commit is to go down to the river, catch a big trout, pike, bass or anything else with fins and kill it for a bragging piece. You know what a bragging piece is? It's one of those worn out, dried out pieces of leather that we so often see resting over the mantel and we like to refer to as a trophy fish. Mind you, if you eat the fish before you send the skin off to the taxidermist, that sin might not be quite as grave, but if it's a trophy, you're probably still killing an important spawner, a prime example of its species. Still, a sin is a sin and when it comes to killing fish for the wall, I have to admit being one of the worst. Not now, mind you, but back in what I once referred to as the good old days. I now sit around the computer and find it difficult to raise my eyes up to what I once described as 'trophies'. That 34 pound lake trout has a head that's just barely holding to the rest of it body. Fluctuating office humidity has cracked this critter almost to the point of being almost unrecognizable. Then there's that first-ever rainbow, the pro that did the shaping of this critter has my steelie looking more like a lamprey. Oops…and let's not forget that hog of a smallmouth, or is it just an overgrown yellow perch. Only its mother would know it for certain and even she would have trouble distinguishing her youngster. There's also the Great Bear Lake grayling that came to net as an almost world record. Too bad three fins are missing and the color coating is diminishing. Another half dozen 'trophies' still adorn my office logs and just about each and every one is twisted, torn and shrunken out of shape.

No…I no longer kill fish for the wall, especially now that fiberglass reproductions are providing more reality and durability to the art of taxidermy than ever before. Even better, there's no reason to kill a fish, just to remember that special occasion. Now, I realize that a good portion of the angling fraternity will still be followers of the old skin and Styrofoam means of mounting, but let's look at the benefits of choosing the 'resin' reason.

For the past two years I've turned to Advanced Taxidermy Studios of Toronto, Ontario, when it came time to putting memories on the wall. Shawn Galea and James McGregor, although young in years, are rated as two of the finest taxidermists in the country. These boys have won just about everything and anything their peers have to offer in the way of awards and recognition. Just recently, Galea walked away with an armload of trophies at the Canadian Taxidermy 1993 Championships. One 6 pound largemouth he entered was rewarded with a first place finish in the Master's replica division, a best of class, a People's Choice award and finished off the competition as the Best of Show.

Are these young men so good? No, they're downright great when it comes to immortalizing that special fish and that special moment. When Shawn and James first approached me with the idea to reproduce my catches they laid out a list of benefits of switching from the skin mounts over to resins. First and foremost is the no kill philosophy. Bluntly put, there's just no reason to kill a fish when it comes to the 'glass' technique. Say, for instance, you catch a lunker walleye. Quickly measure the fish from tip of the tail to top of the snout. Next, take a quick measurement of the girth of the fish.

It also helps, but is not a prerequisite, to take a picture of the fish for color detail. The boys don't even require that the fish be hung from a hook for weighing. Modern-day know-how and a little calculating of length times girth and a couple of other equations will bring the final weight down to a fraction of an ounce of correctness. The final decision is all yours. Us that trophy destined for the pan or back into the water? Remember now, nig mamas most often produce big offspring. It's better off back in the water. There's also the shrinking and oiling problem to consider. From the past experience, I've been able to sit back and witness some of my mounts transform into unrecognizable critters before my eyes. Salmonids, especially, are oily creatures. The same can be said for their coats of scale and skin. Some of the best skin taxidermists in Ontario have worked on my trophies and I still find plenty of flaws popping out of my mounts.

It seems with salmon and trout that oil spots either bead out all over my masterpieces or the fat deposits disappear, leaving the creations with that wrinkled and withered look. With fiberglass and resins, the shape always stays the same. When it comes to painting the replica, the paints hold firmly to the resins, there's never any flaking and no oil is present to pop through to the surface.

Remember, also, that replicas are poured from carefully engineered molds. There's no carving and whittling of Styrofoam. There's no stretching of a skin over the carving. With glass, there are no air pockets, folds, collapsing or wrinkling. There's also no cracking, missing of fins and very little breaking. I've yet to come across a skin mount that was designed to last forever, but that's exactly what I've come to expect from the replicas. In fact, McGregor and Galea send all their creations back home with a lifetime guarantee. Replicas were never designed for dropping, but I've done just that and my mounts are still as lifelike as the day they were taken out of the crating.

As for realism, these boys dare you to pay the guessing game. As they travel the spring fishing show circuit, they bring with them a booth load of replicas and one or two skin mounts. It's impossible to distinguish the imposters from the so-called Teal McCoys and these boys bring along the finest of skin mounts for testing. Heck, Advanced Taxidermy even adds flexible fins to each and every mount to enhance the realism of their creations. Again, it should be mentioned that both Galea and McGregor have a background in fine arts and their resin and skin creations all look like they'd just been pulled from the water. I've yet to come across a skin mounted salmon that doesn't exhibit some form of greasing. A pair pf my mounts that have been on the wall for a decade look like they'd been splattered with Crisco. Removing all the oils from the skin of a Salmonid, especially a king or Coho, can prove almost impossible. Fresh from the taxidermist these mounts will often appear realistic, but give it a year or two on the wall and that silver sheen soon begins to exhibit the spotted look.

Those spots will often lead to full-blown greasepaint. Another grease problem is the hollowed check look. Only the most proficient of taxidermists are capable of removing all the flesh and grease found in the head of the fish. Failing to remove all the flesh and grease found in the head of the fish. Failing to remove it wall will cause the skin to collapse and shrivel into a less than realistic look.

Some taxidermists get around the shrink look with a plasticine build-up, but this can prove to be just another location for cracking. Getting back to the boys, I truly do believe they are the best Canada has to offer. From what I can learn, Advanced Taxidermy has won more awards than any other taxidermy studio in the country. Shawn and James seem to always be experimenting and upgrading the resins and paints they work with.

Graduates with art degrees, this pair have successfully mixed their education with their love of fishing. It's not just fish that the two immortalize, they are also experts with the fur bearers. Advanced Taxidermy also produces a mount for every table top. These mini-versions are exact replicas of the real thing, but only smaller. Available as bass, walleye, pike, musky, steelhead and brookies, these minis are surrounded with a lifelike atmosphere and are great conversation pieces.

August/September 1993
Ontario Fisherman

Darryl Choronzey

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