Making Your Mount Count
By John Floyd

As I made my way through the log-sided barn, I heard the sound of a vacuum cleaner through the slatted floor boards above me. Approaching the rough-hewn staircase to the second story, and my destination, I had to skirt around a full-body bear mount positioned at the landing. I wondered if this bear was waiting for pick up by a lucky hunter or jokingly, if it was the guardian to the studio above. As I climbed the open staircase and pushed through the door to my right, the unmistakable aroma of tanned hides, paints and dyes greeted me. And so did my taxidermist, Ed Moninghoff, proprietor of Ed’s 88 Taxidermy in Lee, Maine.

April finally is here and along with it, the opening of one of my favorite seasons – open water fishing. Like many anglers, I sometimes get caught up with the very act of catching my trophy fish of the season; the anticipation of the perfect presentation for rising trout and the explosive hookups of hungry bass. And like many anglers, I have also failed at times to be properly prepared for preserving that moment in the form of a mount. Over time, I’ve learned that everything that happens after you net the fish, including what you don’t do, can affect the outcome of your fish mount. Thanks to the advice I received from Ed before the start of last season, my largemouth bass reproduction mount I am picking up looks incredible. More importantly, its resemblance to the fish I held on the deck of my boat before releasing it for another day, is striking to say the least.

“Pictures...lots and lots of pictures” Ed told me when I asked him, “What is the single most important thing an angler needs to do in order to give the taxidermist what he needs?” He stressed that not only is the standard ‘holding the trophy fish’ pose important, but that a variety of photos including the front, bottom and top of the fish are equally important. “No two animals are the same. That goes for fish as well” Ed told me. “Subtle variations in colors and markings make every fish unique. I like to be able to hang lots of photos along my bench as I work so I have a reference. It helps ensure the mount looks exactly like the fish you took out of the water. The photos capture the vividness and detail of the fish’s color before it’s lost. That starts happening as soon as you take it out of the water.”

Along with a portfolio of photos, measurements that detail the length, height and girth around the fish at the dorsal fin are important too; if you can get the weight, that’s an added detail that can help when it comes to selecting the form if you are going for a reproduction mount. “I prefer and recommend repros because they last forever. Eventually, skin mounts will start to crack as they dry out, it’s just an unavoidable part of the aging process. Repro mounts will look just as good in twenty years as they do on day one” he said. “As an added bonus, the fish can be released to be enjoyed by another angler in the future.”

If traditional skin mounts are important to you, Ed recommends the same beginning steps with photos and measurements. Afterwards, wrap the fish in dampened newspaper, then wrap again in plastic cling wrap. Finally, put the fish in a plastic bag before getting it into a freezer as soon as possible. “You want to make sure to get all the air out when doing the cling wrap step; air is the biggest cause of deterioration before the tanning process.”

John is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He also works as an outdoors writer and can be reached at john@tuckerridge.me or on Facebook @writerjohnfloyd


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