How to Get a Fish Mounted without Killing It: Complete Guide

September 16, 2021

So you caught the fish of your dreams. Whether it’s a marlin, tarpon, sailfish, or trophy pike, you know you want to get it mounted. But what about killing the fish? For some species (such as tarpon) it’s straight-up illegal. Is there a way to get a fish mounted without killing it?

Don’t worry, there actually are several ways you can get a fish mounted without killing it!

And you are in luck – we will go over all of them in this article. That’s right, get ready to learn all the different ways you can get your dream fish mounted without killing it. 

Let’s get started.

How to Get a Fish Mounted without Killing It: Have a Replica Made

The best way to get a fish mounted without killing it is to have a replica made. That’s right, many taxidermists can create a fiberglass replica of whatever species of fish you caught. Common species are marlin, sailfish, tarpon, sharks, bass, trout, and even tuna. 

So how do you make sure the replica is as close as possible to what the real fish looked like? Let’s go over what you need to do.

1. Take Lots of Photos

Probably the easiest way for your taxidermist to ensure the replica is as close as possible to the actual fish you caught is for you to take as many photos of the fish when you land it as possible.

This will help them create a replica that has all the details and sizing of the actual fish. We recommend having a friend take the photos while you work on letting the fish go.

And remember, do not take the fish out of the water for an extended period of time! If you take so many photos that the fish mortally wounds itself and ends up dying, then what was the point of getting a replica made?

2. Measure the Fish and Estimate its Weight

fish on net

The next smartest thing for you to do is to measure and estimate the weight of the fish when you land it. If the fish is small (like a bass or trout) then you can probably lift it out of the water to measure it.

If it’s a larger fish, we recommend using a measuring tape to accurately gauge how large it is.

We like to use a simple metal measure tape you can pick up from a local hardware store.

Also, many boats have measuring strips mounted on the hull or imprinted next to the live well or fishing storing cooler.

3. Compare with Similar Sized Objects in the Photos

If you didn’t get a chance to measure the length of your fish, you can help your taxidermist estimate the size of the fish by comparing it with objects in the photo you know the length of.

For example, if you see the fish is about double the size of your downrigger, go measure your downrigger then double that measurement to get the size of the fish. You can also compare it to the size of a body part in the photo, such as your forearm or the width of your torso.

Providing these estimates will greatly help your taxidermist create as life-like of a replica as they can.

4. Pay for a Skilled Painter

Another easy way to ensure your replica fish mount looks as natural and life-like as the original is to hire a taxidermist who is skilled at painting. Ensuring that your taxidermist can add all the detail to the outside of the replica will make sure your fish mount looks as realistic as possible. Some taxidermists are better at this than others, so do your research ahead of time and ask to see the taxidermist’s work to assess for yourself.

5. Allow for Some Creative Liberties

Fisherman with carp

All of these things being considered, it is also smart to give your taxidermist some creative liberty when they build your replica.

If you force them to make it as close as possible to the real version, they might end up creating a replica that isn’t as good as it could be.

Creating a replica fish is an art, and the taxidermist is effectively an artist.

Giving them the freedom to create a fish that they want to will allow them to do their best work. Which will result in you getting a replica that looks great.

Fish Mounting FAQs

How Does a Replica Fish Mount Cost?

We’ve written on this extensively in our guide to getting a replica fish mount, so if you want a more detailed answer check that article.

But the short answer is that replica fish mounts typically cost between $100 and $1,500 depending on the size and quality of the mount.

We recommend doing your research and going into the taxidermist’s shop you can see what the quality of their mounts is like.

Should You Kill Your Fish to Mount It?

We’re a bit biased towards replica fish mounts, but if you catch a species that is legal to kill then yes you can still get a fish mounted the traditional way.

We think replica fish mounts are better, however, for several reasons. They tend to not be any more expensive (sometimes they are more affordable) than traditional mounts. They also will last much longer.

Traditional mounts have the preserved fish body inside them, whereas replica fish mounts are usually made out of fiberglass. Fiberglass is much more durable to preserved (dried and painted) fish meat. We also think replica fish mounts are easier to mount and move between locations.

They tend to be lighter than real mounts which makes them easier to move and hang.

How Should You Kill a Fish if You Intend to Mount It?

If you do decide to keep your trophy fish for mounting, we recommend killing it in the most humane way possible without damaging too much of the fish’s body or structure.

Using a billy club to hit the fish in the head once to kill is our top choice for dispatching a fish.

If the fish is large, you may need to use an ice pick to ensure you kill it properly with the billy club.

Conclusion

Release pike back to water

Learning how to get fish mounted without killing it is a super helpful skill to have in your back pocket.

Now if you do end up catching that trophy fish you have always dreamed about, you’ll be able to get it mounted without actually harming the fish.

We hope you found our guide useful and informative. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave us a comment below and we will do our best to get back to you.

Happy Hunting!

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