As anglers we are all in search of those “trophy” fish. Some may deny it, but deep down we all want to catch a fish that we can hang on the wall. A fish that we can be proud of and are able to stare at for hours and remember every last detail about that day and that catch.
This brings up a great question that I personally have been faced with on many occasions. Do you keep that fish and have a skin mount done or do you get good photos and have a replica made?
The debate about catch and release is an age-old question when it comes to many species of fish. There are arguments for both sides and I cannot really tell you which side I am on at any given point. I do know that both play an important role in the health of a lakes fish population.
Growing up I was taught that if it was legal then we are going to keep it and eat it. Now that I have grown in the sport it is easy to see the benefits of catch and release. It has been proven to me over and over that if you let the bigger fish go and keep the smaller fish the overall sizes of the fish will get much larger and you have a better chance at a trophy fish.
Now to throw a little wrench into the topic let’s discuss a trophy fish that we want for the wall. Do you keep that fish or do you release it?
To be totally honest with you I have several skin mounts of fish on my walls, however there are just as many replicas as well. Some fish were kept as I knew that I would not be hurting the population as they were a post-spawn fish or there were many large fish in the fishery.
Others were released and replicas made so that those large fish could go on and produce more fish of their magnitude. There really is no way to judge properly if you should or should not keep a fish for a skin mount, but it is your decision if it is a legal catch.
One of the advantages of getting a replica done is that you can take a photo from a fish that you may have special meaning to you and get a replica made after the fact. The decision doesn’t have to be made in the boat if you are going to get that fish mounted or not.
A perfect example of this is a recent trip I took I caught an impressive red drum. We decided that this fish was better off back into the system to make more large fish in the years to come. That one fish had some significant meaning to me, but releasing it was the right thing to do.
It wasn’t until after the trip that I decided that the fish was a memory that I never wanted to forget. That is when I went to my good friend Tom Wendel and had him make me a replica of this great fish. Now I have a photo and a 3d representation of a special memory that will last me forever.
Skin mounts are also a wonderful way to capture a memory, however they offer a challenge to make sure that they do not get damaged from your trip to your taxidermist. Special care must be taken to prevent any fin or skin damage to the fish before getting it to the final destination.
In the long run both types of mounts require a new paint job as well as glass eyes and filler putty so what you get back is more replica than actual fish. The one advantage of a skin mount is that you are not limited to the poses that you can have of the fish. With a replica you are tied down to whatever the mold is of that fish.
There are many schools of thought out there about the replica vs. skin mount and the ultimate decision is yours and yours alone. Don’t let someone influence you to go in any particular direction.
Who am I to tell you if you should get a replica or not. The choice is yours and should always be yours as long as you are within the law. I can tell you that it is quite rewarding to know that some of my large fish are still swimming and I get to enjoy the memories over and over.