The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smithl
The Times 

Tom Schirm Wins at World Fish Carving Championship

Dayton fish biologist took part in competition in Peoria, Ill. in May


Michele Smith

Tom Schirm's wood carvings. Schirm won second place at the World Fish Carving Championship in Peoria, Ill. for the Rainbow Trout on the right, and first place in the rainbow trout subcategory.

DAYTON--Tom Schirm's wood carving of a rainbow trout earned second place in the Trout, Salmon and Char category at the World Fish Carving Championship in Peoria, Ill., in May. It also took first place in the subcategory for rainbow trout. His brown trout carving won third place in the miniature category for freshwater fish, and third place overall in the same category, he said.

This artform seems to be a natural fit for Schirm, who works as a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of the local fish management team.

"I just love wildlife of any kind and nature in general – and working with wood," he said.

Schirm said he began playing around with carving about twenty years ago when he was a game warden in Kemmerer, Wyo.

His first carving was a rainbow trout, roughed out of a 2x4, he said.

"That ended up in the fireplace," said Schirm, who has since created 97 carvings, including channel catfish, Chinook salmon, steelhead, brook trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye and blue gill.

Schirm said he works in the basement of his home in Dayton after work, using carving knives, chisels, a band saw and power carver.

The wood he uses can be basswood, but his favorite woods are jeluton for the bodies of the fish, and tupelo for the fins, because tupelo holds the detail nicely, he said.

Schirm said he will make a study of the casted body and head, and uses photos and other reference materials for accuracy.

The final carving is painted using water-based acrylic, with the addition of some hand painting techniques, and the use of some powders and waxes for some of the techniques.

Schirm said he devoted around 120 hours to his winning Rainbow trout, but averages 50 to 160 hours on other carvings, depending on the size.

His work is by commission, and he said he receives the most requests for trout and steelhead, but he will carve most freshwater fish.

Schirm's carvings can be seen at:

Schirm can be reached by phone at (509) 382-2185, or by email at


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