July 25, 2008

Faith Outdoors

I made a trip to the taxidermist earlier this week. After some deliberation, I decided to mount the 21-inch bass I caught on Sunday. It’s the biggest bass I have ever caught, weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces on my digital scale. It also was a very nice-looking fish with no oddities or damage to its skin or fins.

I called my friend Steve and he recommended a place called Minnesota Valley Taxidermy in Burnsville. The owner, Jack Cudd, has done several mounts for Steve that he’s been very happy with. And, Steve recently caught a 30-inch walleye that he’s going to bring to Jack.

When I called Jack, I discovered that he does lots of fish mounts, including bass. In fact, he did the mount of the state record bass (8 pounds, 15 ounces) caught by Mark Raveling on Oct. 3, 2005. I saw the picture of the finished mount and that got me pumped about my fish.

Fortunately, my fish was in excellent condition and Jack said that will help ensure a colorful and lifelike mount. I tried to be conscientious about handling the fish carefully and getting it into the freezer right away when I got home. Jack said proper field care of fish is very important to the quality of the finished mount.

He said the number one thing anglers should do is try to preserve the skin color of the fish. Fish, especially walleyes and trout, can lose skin color fast, even before they die. He recommends killing a fish right after landing it, smearing borax on the skin, putting it in a plastic bag and then putting it on ice. Once you’re ashore, put it in the freezer as soon as possible.

If you’ve done all of this correctly, there’s no hurry to take the fish to a taxidermist. Jack says the fish will remain in good condition for a long time — up to two years. The important thing is to prevent the skin from fading because lost color is hard to replace, even with paint.

In my case, the skin color was nice and dark like it should be, even though I didn’t use borax. Jack said bass don’t fade as quickly as walleyes and trout, which is why I was able to get away with not using borax.

While talking to Jack, I also learned that taxidermists are very good at knowing the true length and weight of fish. He said lots of people bring in 19-inch bass thinking they weigh more than 5 pounds. But, a 19-inch bass generally weighs about 4 pounds.

That jives with what I have seen. I weighed one of the 19-inchers I caught on Sunday and the scale read exactly 4 pounds. That’s why I’m so proud of the 21-inch fish — it’s a legitimate 5-pound-plus bass. I’ve been waiting a long time for a fish this big and I look forward to getting the mount back. In the meantime, I’ll start trying for a 22-incher!


About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

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