Replica fish mounts–what the taxidermist needs


This article was originally written for sportsmen on what a taxidermist needs to provide a matching replica.


Replica or reproduction fish are mounts that are completely artificial. They are commonly used if a fish was caught and released, the fish does not make a good skin mount, or for interior decorating projects/wildlife dioramas.

Replica fish are molded off of real fish.  Once a mold is made, a cast is pulled and made ready for a production mold. A high quality production mold can produce hundreds of casts, or as we call them in the taxidermy industry, blanks. The replica fish blank goes through a cleaning and grinding process to remove mold release and flashing. We then have to repair seams, add glass eyes,gills and put fins back on. Then its off to the paint booth. A good taxidermist can recreate the colors of the fish you caught onto a replica fish with great accuracy .

Replica Bull Trout by Stehling's Taxidermy

You do not have to bring your fish in to a taxidermist to get a replica made. There are thousands of molds available for almost all of the common fish species caught. However,not all of these molds are of the best quality or made the same. Many of the newer fish molds offer higher quality and more lifelike poses, including full open mouth and gill detail. Ask your taxidermist for examples of their recently completed replicas to see if you like what they are offering.

Replica by Stehling's Taxidermy

Now that you have caught the fish of a lifetime, what does the taxidermist need ? While we can recreate a replica off of a good description,the more information we can get on the fish the more accurate the mount will be!


Pictures are one of the most important things you can get before you release your fish. This is what the taxidermist will use to recreate the colors on your replica . Try taking pictures at different angles and in different lights. The more pictures the better. Most smartphones have cameras that are more than adequate for this.

Length & Girth

Take your length measurement from the tip of the jaw to the tip of the tail.The girth should be measured at the part of the fish with the greatest diameter. Normally this is around the center of the fish. A Tailors waterproof tape measure works great for this. The taxidermist can normally find a blank close to your size fish, but being a little flexible on the exact size is appreciated.


While getting an accurate weight on your fish can be helpful, it is not as important as pictures and measurements. If your goal is to release the fish alive, you may want to skip this step.

Good Description

Making notes of certain colors or features that make your fish unique is important. Write down anything that jumps out at you after your fish is in the boat.

Rainbow trout color photo

A few notes on catch and release fishing

Obviously, the goal of C & R is to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible. Avoid holding the fish by it’s jaw. This is not a natural position for a fish and can cause internal injury. Keep the fish moist and avoid over handling the fish. Fish have a slime coat that helps protect them. Removing too much of it can open the fish up to infection . Big fish are often thought of as being ” tough”, but big fish are old fish and may not take the release as well as younger fish. Also many older fish are no longer fertile, even if they are carrying eggs. In some situations it may actually be better to keep larger, older fish and release the younger more vigorous fish. Warmer weather and water temperatures can also increase the mortality rate of released fish. Under ideal condition the mortality rate of fish is around 10%. In warmer water it can hit 25% or higher.

Good Fishing !

Releasing a brown trout

Aaron Stehling is a full time taxidermist in Jefferson WI. He is the owner of Stehling’s Taxidermy LLC, a second generation studio that has been in business for over 40 years.He is also administrator on forums. Aaron is an online instructor on Questions or comments for Aaron can be directed to

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Aaron Stehling is a second-generation full time taxidermist from Jefferson, WI. He is co-owner, with his brother Austin, of Stehling’s Taxidermy, LLC, a studio that specializes in wholesale/sub contract work that has been in operation for over 40 years. Stehling’s Taxidermy also offers a turkey head freeze dry service. You can learn more about his services at or check out their online video training web site, Aaron is also the administrator on forums. He is a regular contributing author for Taxidermy Today Magazine.You can contact him at 920.674.3724 or email