Capt. Doyle's

River Excursions & FunFishing Guide Service

Capt. Doyle

FunFishing the Colorado River



Welcome to the Colorado!

I hope the summer heat hasn’t left you too listless. To see persistence, luck, knowledge, and equipment rewarded with a trophy size fish is every angler’s dream. However, once that dream has been realized the question becomes must I kill this magnificent fish in order to have it mounted, or can I release it and be satisfied with a quality reproduction. To kill or not to kill, that is the question? Skin versus reproduction mounts; you choose. 

Taxidermy is an ancient custom whereby chemically treated skins of animals were made to appear as lifelike as possible by stuffing their sewed-up skins with hay or straw. New techniques for mounting skins followed hand in hand with the trend toward more realistic displays. Then in the 19th century a small group of naturalists at Ward’s Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York began perfecting taxidermic methods. Their methods remain the basis of modern taxidermy (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Local taxidermist Richard Graham told me that until the nineteen sixties when reproductions came on the scene, the only way to mount a fish was the traditional skin mount method. There are several methods employed in skin mounting: hollow mount, fish fill, excelsior core, hand carved balsa wood, and the most recent, standardized polyurethane mold. Fish are skinned and pickled, or tanned, then formed around the respective form using either plaster of Paris or mache (How to Mount Fish, Archie & Bubba Phillips). According to Jim Hartsock of Southwest Wildlife mache is made from a mixture of plaster of Paris, paper pulp, and dextrin glue. He added that sixty to seventy percent of fish are still skin mounted. Nevertheless, fiberglass reproduction has begun to inch forward in popularity. For the catch and release angler as well as the fisherman who believes, “It’s about the catching not the keeping,” reproductions are the answer. Each method has its pros and cons.

Skin mounts are usually more life-like with a depth of color hard to find in reproductions. And, you know that it is your fish. On the flip side, not only are you sacrificing the fish, but skin mounts can dry and crack over time and the fins can split and break off. The preservation of fish populations has spawned the reproduction revolution. A reproduction has longevity; the mount will never dry out, crack, or break off. A fiberglass reproduction may not be the fish you caught, but the opportunity to out wit a trophy-size fish will be preserved for another day as well as for another angler. With a reproduction, it’s all about the paint. In the hands of a talented artisan adept in the use of color, a reproduction can hold its own against a skin mount any day of the week. A well-executed reproduction is the blending of art and reality. But, if the taxidermist isn’t skilled your mount could look unrealistic.

I have several friends who have both kinds of mounts on their wall. One friend, Dave, has a skin mounted striper. He says it is over nine years old and still looks as good as the day he brought it home. He does admit that for is next big catch he will most likely opt for a reproduction. Another friend, Richard who has everything from fish to bears, cherishes his reproduction of a rainbow trout and swears by its realistic appearance. Some taxidermists believe the future is leaning toward reproduction mounts. There will still be a call for the skin mounted trophy, but the majority of the mounts will probably be the ecologically sound replica. 

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of fulfilling a dream and displaying the product of that dream. Your tenacity, wisdom, talent, and superior choice of tackle—not to mention good luck—are on display for friends and family to see. Have you made a choice yet? Well whatever your preference, remember the trophy is only a visual; it’s the memory of the event that completes the experience. One taxidermist that does both skin and reproduction mounts is Jim Hartsock of Southwest Wildlife in Scottsdale. Hope you enjoyed the diversion.

See you on the river. Until the next time, Keep your sinker in the water and the plug in your boat, and remember no matter what time of day or year it's always FunFishing on the Colorado!

Capt. Doyle