Best Place to Get Stuffed

Gray Taxidermy

If you've ever wondered what happens to the ones that didn't get away (and that weren't eaten), check out the big, blue glass building on I-95 with the dancing swordfish in front. It's Gray Taxidermy, probably the world's largest marine taxidermist. Like Apple computer, Gray's was started in a garage 35 years ago. Today founder William Gray has retired to Stuart and the business is run by his former apprentice and partner of 22 years, Ian Hall. Stuffing fish isn't what it used to be, Hall says. Only 10 to 15 percent of the 1200 specimens produced monthly are "skin mounts," the actual fish that someone caught, dried or froze, and delivered to Gray's. The rest are made from Fiberglas; some anglers catch a big one, snap a photo, and instruct Gray's to make a double. Others do the unthinkable; they simply call, request a 24-foot hammerhead shark or a four-foot barracuda, and then wait three months until it shows up on their doorstep. Hotels, restaurants, and movie companies (and maybe even a few, um, exaggerators) do it. The original jaws from Jaws hang on Gray's wall. Even so, the big charge for these guys, who spend most of their time molding, sanding, and painting, is when a parent brings in a kid clutching his first catch and proudly says, "Stuff it, please."

 
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