Angling Memories

Understand how biologically valuable your trophy catches are and how they contribute to future generations of the species.

He stopped at the tackle shop on his way to the river to delve into the world of hunting big fish. $500 dollars later(give or take), he was well suited to start a career in chasing the fish of 10,000 casts. Armed with a stout rod, mega reel, braided line, leaders and lures big enough to cause wonderment as to what would eat something so large, he was set.

He was after Ontario’s apex freshwater predator, the almighty musky, and little did he know, he was train-tracked toward a fish of a lifetime. Ironically for this elusive fish, and with almost no effort invested, he got lucky—big time! Trolling for less than an hour, his rod bent over and did not budge. “I’m snagged on a rock.” The line started peeling off the reel. Then it happened. The rock came to life, came to the surface, and shook its head, trying vehemently to rid the lure from its mouth. He hooked a giant! She taped out at 57 inches and weighed well over 50 pounds.

In days gone by, that leviathan musky would have been “bonked” and taken to a taxidermist to be “stuffed” or skin-mounted, effectively removing that individual from the breeding system and halting generations of genetic superiority. That fish would end up on an office or den wall, slowly deteriorating over years of admiration, eventually destined to a local landfill or the basement of an eclectic hoarder. However, today, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a wider conservation understanding of how biologically valuable these long-lived animals are, and how they contribute to future generations of the species.

Taxidermy has come a long way! So much so that today, a fish doesn’t have to be harvested to have a mount created for your office wall, or your creepy basement.  Many of today’s taxidermists create art in preserving your big fish memory. Art that doesn’t deteriorate, degrade, or take a superior fish out of the environment. These new mounts are created from pre-cast moulds and are often identical to that giant fish you’ve released. Do some research as to what taxidermist will best fit your needs, see examples of their work, and speak to past clients about their experiences. After that, there are a couple of things you must keep in mind when looking to have a mount created. 


Most importantly, when fishing for a trophy, make sure you have the tools to best look after the fish. That must include a net worthy of holding the species you are targeting. For big fish, an aquarium-style net, or a net large enough to support the fish in water without injury is key. It doesn’t do anyone any good to injure a fish which you’re looking to have mounted. Kind of defeats the purpose!

Take accurate measurements. Bring with you a soft ruler, like a haberdashery measuring tape, and when measuring the fish, remember the “tip to tip” rule.  Take your measurement from the tip of the nose, down the lateral line to the tip of the tail. Don’t take fork-length measurements as that doesn’t represent the true size of the fish. Next, find the fattest part of the fish and take a girth measurement or tape around the circumference of the fish. Make sure you minimize air exposure when doing these measurements and consider keeping the fish in the net while measuring. Accurate measurements are vital to match the casting mould to the exact size of your fish. Taxidermists literally have a warehouse full of pre-cast moulds for any fish you want to mount—size and species.


Next, admire your catch. Look longingly at this magnificent animal noting any unique markings, scars, interesting characteristics, and the like. Get out your camera and start taking photos. Get full-length photos of your fish, ensuring the sun is at your back if you’re the photographer. Position the fish in the best light possible for your situation. Take photos of any unique markings of the fish and where it’s located on the body. Take photos of both sides of the fish as today, many mounts can be made “3D.” Why? Taxidermy artists will do their best to recreate and hand paint your mount to best represent all the amazing fish displays.

Know what? That’s it. That’s all you have to do to be able to preserve that fantastic memory of your trophy catch. It’s really that simple. If you think about it, you’re doing our sport a fantastic solid by returning these big fish to the depths, to have the ability to pass their superior genetic traits onto (hopefully) many other generations of big fish. The next time you catch a giant, consider a replica mount to preserve that fantastic memory.

Oh, and our friend who released that giant musky, he did get a replica mount created… And it’s incredible.

About Mark Melnyk

Currently, Mark is the host and producer of The New Fly Show. With a passion of fly fishing, the shows goal is to help both novice and veteran fly fishers everywhere by giving them a top-quality fly fishing series that will make them better anglers. 

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