How To Mount A Fish (Detailed Guide)
UPDATED 31 JULY 2022
by Robert Ceran
Are you thinking about mounting your trophy fish, to get a nice wall mount to remember it by?
In that case it’s essential to follow the right steps to mount the fish correctly, in order to avoid deterioration and discoloration of your mount afterwards.
In this guide we’ll walk you through the process of fish skin mount taxidermy in full detail. This type of fish taxidermy is quite easy to learn, and can be readily done at home.
How to taxidermy a fish (step by step guide)
Here are the steps you need to follow in order to taxidermy a fish:
- Prepare the fish for taxidermy
- Peel off the skin of the fish
- Remove all flesh from the skin
- Inject embalming fluid
- Stuff the fish with sawdust or styrofoam
- Sew up the fish
- Add glass eyes
- Dry the fish
- Paint the fish
Now let’s take a closer look at the taxidermy steps listed above, and discuss what you’ll need to do for each of them.
Prepare the fish for taxidermy
Ideally you should start the taxidermy process of a fish as soon as possible after catching it. This is because the skin rapidly loses its colors when the fish is dead, and its internal organs start decomposing rapidly.
The longer you wait, the harder it is to perform a high quality taxidermy job on it. However, if you can’t taxidermy the fish right away, you can also preserve it for taxidermy by freezing it wrapped in a towel (though make sure to position it with the “show side” pointing upwards).
Also, before you start the taxidermy process, take all the key measurements of your fish, including length and girth, and if you want to use a pre-cut styrofoam shape to stuff the fish, trace the outline of your fish on top of a block of styrofoam.
Peel off the skin of the fish
Now start the taxidermy process by cutting an incision along the lateral line of the fish on the side opposite to the “show side.” Gently pull up the skin and start pulling it off the flesh underneath it.
Use a scalpel (or a sharp knife) to cut the flesh from the skin, but take care not to damage the skin itself. Then cut through the backbone close to the head and the tail, and pull out all the internal organs, flesh, and bones in one piece,
If done correctly, you’ll end up with a hollow sack of skin with the head and tail of the fish still attached to it.
Remove all flesh from the skin and the head
Scrape off any pieces of flesh still remaining on the inside of the skin. Also, remove the eyes and the brain of the fish, as well as the flesh in the cheeks. In order to reach the brain, you’ll need to cut open the skull from the back, and then scrape out the brain.
It’s essential to remove all the parts of the fish that are most prone to decay, that will ensure your final fish mount will last as long as possible without deterioration.
Inject embalming fluid
Now inject embalming fluid into the head and tail region of the fish. Embalming fluid for fish taxidermy consists of either glycol ether or ethanol, and you can also use formaldehyde for preserving the head region, which is most prone to decay.
Another way to protect the fish from degradation is to sprinkle borax powder into all the parts that are most likely to suffer from decay.
After you inject the embalming fluid into the tail region, you can start sewing up the scin starting from the back, and proceed until about halfway to the head before you start stuffing the skin.
Stuff the fish with sawdust (or insert a pre-cut styrofoam block)
Once the fish is partially sewn up, start stuffing it with sawdust. Alternatively, you can also use a pre-cut styrofoam block to stuff it. If you choose the second option, use the fish outline that you drew on a styrofoam block in step one above to sculpt a shape resembling the shape of the fish.
If you’re using a styrofoam block, usually you’ll find it’s not 100% correctly shaped when you try to stuff the fish, and will have to do some additional sculpting in order to get it to fit.
Also, if you notice that some parts are not fully filled by the styrofoam, you can either add some sawdust or liquid fiberglass resin until those pockets are filled completely.
Sew up the fish
Once the fish skin is stuffed, double check that the length and the girth correspond more or less to the measurements you took in step one. If this looks, complete sewing up the cut along the lateral line of the fish.
If the flesh you removed from the cheeks of the fish leaves a noticeable hollow, you can fill this with fiberglass resin. Don’t worry about the coloring, as you can add pain to that in the final step.
Position the fins and insert glass eyes
After sewing up the fish, bend it into the shape that you want it to assume when you’re done, and use small pins or needles to position the fins until they look good.
Place a few drops of fiberglass resin inside the eye sockets, and then insert glass eyes on top of the resin. It’s important to have a range of glass eye sizes, so you can choose the one that fits perfectly for the size of your fish.
Dry the fish
After you’ve bent the fish into the correct shape, positioned the fins, and inserted the glass eyes, it’s essential to dry it for at least 2 months for warm water species (such as bass and pike), and 4 months for coldwater species (such as trout and salmon) or saltwater species.
During the drying process, oil or grease may come out of the skin, and if this happens, gently wipe it off with a towel or tissue paper. When the drying process is complete, you can add a layer of silicone on top of the skin to seal it off.
Paint the fish (optional)
While it’s not absolutely necessary to paint your fish to complete the taxidermy process, doing this helps to restore life like colors, which otherwise tend to bleach over time.
It’s best to do this with spray paint specifically intended for painting fish mounts, and you can even get colors that are selected to match your specific fish species.
This concludes our article on how to taxidermy a fish, and hopefully this will help you to get started with mounting fish. If you prefer to get an expert to taxidermy your fish for you, however, take a look at our article on how much it costs to mount a fish.