Finding a lost contact on the beach is tough. Meeting up with someone who says, ďIíll see you at the stadiumĒ is a challenge. But discovering an experienced gar taxidermist?? Impossible! So few anglers fish for gar. So few catch gar. So few of those gar are kept as trophies. This all adds up to very few gar taxidermists.
But after exhaustive efforts , the many professionals of the crack GASS research team have tracked down three of this rare breed. Three experienced gar taxidermists that were willing to share their knowledge. Doug of Douglas Taxidermy (St Charles, IL), Dennis of Anglersí Art Taxidermy (Genoa City, WI), and Chuck of C & C Taxidermy (Coal City, IL) have mounted dozens of gar of four of the five American species.
All of these taxidermists agree that for an experienced, talented professional, gar are not especially difficult to mount. Their skin is far from delicate. It holds its shape well. The bones are hard and not greasy. They donít require extensive cleaning. According to C & Cís Chuck (taxidermist of an Illinois State Record longnose), gar require only 4 to 5 colors to finish whereas bass or walleye need 8 to 10. Fish heads often need to be re-sculpted, but gar heads dry and shrink less and therefore need less epoxy filler.
But there are special challenges. First, commercial urethane forms for gar are almost non-existent, so taxidermists must carve their own. The foam form is then sanded to match the many critical measurements taken from the fresh fish. Second, top quality gar eyes are not available, so those, too, are hand-crafted. A clear, colorless eye is painted on its backside to match the garís prehistoric gaze. Third, the skin and scales form a tough shell; tin snips are necessary to cut through it. Fourth, because of their solid, interlocking scales, gar donít (canít, actually) move like other fish. A talented taxidermist will show this in the positioning of the mount.
How do you recognize quality in a gar mount? How should you pick a taxidermist to mount your once-in-a-lifetime trophy? Doug of Douglas Taxidermy suggests to do your research before you make your record catch. Ask about guarantees. Ask for references. Ask to see previous gar mounts. On a mount, look to see if the fish is symmetrical, if the ventral fins are centered, and the head and back are aligned. It should look life-like with no unnatural bends or bumps. Coloration should be natural with no blotches, over-spray or brush marks. Dennis of Anglersí Art adds that a well-mounted gar will have a trapezoidal cross-section with the belly slightly wider than the back. On a longnose, the upper beak has a fleshy knob which must be reconstructed.
Once you catch that trophy gar, there are actions you can take to ensure a quality mount. Keeping the gar from thrashing in the net will preserve the fins. If possible, take many close-up and full-body photos while the fish is still alive. Then, dispatch it quickly and keep the fish wet and cold on ice. Wrap it in soaking-wet towels covered with garbage bags. Do not wrap the fish in paper as that will draw moisture out of the fish and eventually mummify it. And make sure you get the gar to a professional taxidermist as soon as possible. Fish can be shipped frozen by second-day air UPS all over the country.
Catching a trophy gar may be rarer than a once-in-a-lifetime event. When it happens to you, take care of the fish and take it to one of the rare breed: an experienced, talented gar taxidermist.
Anglersí Art Taxidermy
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