fish taxidermy

How to Preserve a Fish for Taxidermy

The target of every angler is to reel that trophy-quality fish that they are going to flaunt to their friends for years and years to come. If you are lucky to catch that so large or impressive fish, you wish to preserve that moment forever! That is when the taxidermist’s skills become necessary. However, before the fish gets to the taxidermist, several steps are necessary to preserve the fish as well as possible. This will make the taxidermist’s job trouble-free and provide you with the best possible-looking mount. 

Fish preparation steps for taxidermy

The following are steps involved in fish preparation and preservation of when using a fish taxidermy service.

Photograph your fish

In the first minutes of catching the fish, take as many pictures as possible, covering different angles, close-ups, different poses, and make sure not to take photos into the sun. Fish have different looks in various light levels, and some colors may not be visible unless you have the right light. Photographs are important because fish start losing color in as little as 90 seconds after being removed from the water. Good photos will help the taxidermist recapture the unique colors and characteristics of your catch. 

Handle your catch properly

First, ensure the fins are safe and away from damage. Do not let the fins dry out. If you netted your trophy, get the fish out of the meshes as quickly as possible. Net meshes can deform or split any of the fins, especially the tail. When removing a stubbornly hooked-up fish, try not to rip it out or tear it, damaging the fish. If you’re unsure of what steps to take with a stuck hook, leave it in the fishnet and let the taxidermist remove handle it. After catching your trophy, your focus should be either keeping it alive or killing the fish immediately. Freshly caught fish are often wild, and this damages the skin, fins, and scales, so try as much as possible to limit that by handling with care.

Keep your fish alive or as cold as possible

Fish are very delicate and spoil very quickly than many realize. Fish like trout that have rapidly hatched and grown have soft flesh, and their bone structure is not fully formed and weak. It is often challenging to prepare a trout fish for mounting once it becomes too warm. Ensure you put your fish on ice as soon as possible. The fish should be adequately frozen, preventing any damages and freezer burns.

Wrapping and/or storage of your fish

Do not pack a trophy fish in a plastic bag or newspaper. Instead, put it in a cooler for freezing. For proper storage while in the freezer, take an old bath towel or a similar material, soak it in water, and then ring out most of the excess. Then carefully wrap the fish, making sure it is completely covered. Check and ensure the tail is not bent, and the fins are flat against its body when the cloth is folded. If the material is thin, a pillowcase or sheet wrapping a second layer will provide extra support to the fish. Place the fish and the wet cloth in a freezer-friendly bag, wrap it tightly using tape, and freeze. When frozen, the piece of cloth becomes armor-like protection while the bag keeps your freezer clean and prevents freezer burns. Trophy fish prepared using this method remain in prime shapes for a very long time.

Ensure freezing is done properly

Your trophy fish should be frozen as soon as possible—preferably with the first six hours and up to a maximum of 24hours. Once the fish is completely frozen, you spray automized water over it, which freezes into ice glaze around the fish. This slick coating of ice allows you to put the fish in a kitchen film or plastic bag for transportation to a taxidermist without the scales skimming off.

Select the side of the fish you want to be mounted

To choose the correct side:

  1. Look for blemishes on the skin, and check all the fins to make sure there is no damage.
  2. Check the colors of both sides of the fish, and obvious one side should be better than the other. This will help you in deciding on the side to choose.
  3. Get a piece of board which you can lay the fish on. The board should be longer than the fish.
  4. Cover the board with Glad wrap end by the end and then wrap it around the board to hold it in place.

Things to avoid when preparing your fish for taxidermy

  • Unless you are planning to freeze your catch, you should never place any part of it in a plastic bag. 
  • You should not, in any circumstances, gut the fish. Try to avoid handling your trophy more than you need to, as this could result in the loosening of the scales and causing the fins.
  • Do not wrap your fish in anything abrasive. This may blemish the fish or rub off the scales.
  • Avoid keeping your fish in the freezer for a long time. The fish can get freezer burns from the freezer, and in some cases, this hard to cover up.
  • Do not let fins dry out.

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