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How to Mount Fish: A Guide to Mounting Fish (Prep and Cost)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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When you catch a trophy fish, it’s a moment to remember and there is no better way of preserving that memory than having your trophy fish mounted. But what are your options and how does the process work when it comes to mounting fish?

Join me as we take a deep dive into the fish mounting process so you can guarantee a high quality result and have a beautiful fish mount of your original fish.

Should I mount my fish?

Largemouth Bass Fish Mount
Largemouth Bass Fish Mount

Fish taxidermy is slowly becoming a thing of the past and this is due to us anglers becoming conservationists that would rather see our trophy catch swim away than dead on the bank.

That being said, if you do catch a trophy and you’re within your rights to kill the fish, you have every right to make a taxidermy trophy mount to remember it by.

Catch and Release

But you do have another option which allows you to release the fish and watch your trophy swim away.

Many taxidermists have begun making exact fiberglass replica fish mounts, and by choosing a replica mount, your trophy catch gets to swim away and live to fight another day.

What to do if you want to mount a fish

If you do want your trophy to become a mounted fish, there are some rules you need to follow to ensure the fish mount looks like the actual fish you caught.

But, before you start preparing for the fish taxidermy process, you have to choose whether you want your fish mounted using a replica or skin mount, so let’s take a look at each taxidermy process below.

TIP

The main difference between each process is that the fish dies using a skin fish mount and taxidermy whereas it survives if you use the replica process.

Skin Mounts

Skin Mount Fish On Display
Skin Mount Fish On Display

A skin mount uses actual parts of the real fish you caught such as the skin, head, tail, and fins, and it requires the professional skills of a taxidermist.

Fish are quite delicate creatures when it comes to taxidermy and therefore you need to ensure you preserve them properly if you want them to look life-like on the wall – more on this later.

When you give your fish to a taxidermist he/she will skin the fish from bottom to top and then preserve the skin, fins, tail, and head for use on the mount which ensures the mount is the exact size of the fish.

Mold

Once each actual part of the fish is dry, they are added to a foam mold that makes up the main body of the mount, to the exact specifications of the real fish you caught.

The taxidermist now shows off their artistic side by painting your catch to ensure it is as life-like as possible. The taxidermist will also shape the fish into a pose for a wall mount or a pedestal mount.

TIP

Wall mounts require the fish to be painted one side by the taxidermist whereas it will need to be painted on both sides for a pedestal mount.

Replica Mounts

Blue Marlin Replica Mount
Blue Marlin Replica Mount

If you would like your fish to swim away after your epic encounter, then choosing to use replica fish mounts is the way to go. You might be concerned that replica fish mounts might not be accurate enough to commemorate your trophy fish but they are actually just as skin fish mounts, if not better.

Replica fish mounts are made from fiberglass and they look just like the fish you caught and are very life-like. They are still made by a taxidermist but the fish is molded based on real fish so all the details of the species are present and the result is top quality.

Taxidermy

Taxidermy is a work of art and a good taxidermist will work with you and your photos to ensure everything from the skin to the head, eyes, and everything else are exactly as you remember it.

Having an accurate picture or twenty and measurements of the fish are key to giving the taxidermist everything they need to recreate the fish for mounting – more on this later.

Replica mounts are also much quicker to complete for a taxidermist – so is it really worth waiting for the skin mounting process? Not in my eyes!

How Do You Prepare A Fish For Mounting?

To ensure your fish is ready for a taxidermist to create either a replica or skin mounting you will need to photograph the fish, measure the fish, and for a skin mount, freeze the fish. This all needs to happen while you are fishing, so it’s important to be prepared.

Let’s take a look at each part in more detail so you can ensure you end up with a quality mount.

How To Photograph Fish For Mounting?

There is nothing more important than having accurate pictures of your fish as it’s these pictures that the taxidermist will use to recreate the colors of the fish.

It’s best to use a DSLR camera like a Canon D6 or equivalent, and to shoot in RAW file mode as this captures the most amount of detail. A good photo with a mobile phone would also suffice, just make sure it captures all the colors.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • When you catch the fish, keep it in the water until the photographer is ready – This keeps the colors of the fish alive and vibrant
  • If the fish is dead, you need to work quickly as the colors will fade in 2 minutes
  • You will want to take pictures of every side of the fish and pictures of specific parts of the fish too
  • Lift the fish and take a full profile shot of both sides, the belly, and the top of the fish
  • If the fish is alive, put the fish back in the water to it can breathe for a minute
  • Lift the fish and take close up pictures of the tail, fins, eyes, head, and main body
  • If the fish is alive, put the fish back in the water to it can breathe for a minute
  • Take any more pictures of details you’d like included in the display mount
  • Now it’s time to take measurements

As you can see, the more pictures you can take of every part of the fish, the bigger the chance that the taxidermy process will recreate it with the exact colors.

How To Measure A Fish For Mounting?

Bass Getting Measured
Bass Getting Measured

If you plan on releasing your catch, you’ll need to take these measurements while you’re fishing.

Be sure to have a tape measure with you at all times when fishing as you never know when you’ll catch a trophy. If you don’t have tape, you can always use a fishing line and cut it to the measurements.

If you are killing the fish, you can do this part later, but it’s worth doing while you’re fishing as the fish’s shape can change when frozen.

Steps

You need to take two measurements to ensure an accurate mold is created, a length and girth measurement. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Hold the fish in the water if you are releasing it, if it’s dead, skip to the next step
  2. Life the fish out the water and have a friend take a length measurement
  3. Run the tape or line from the middle of the tail to the nose of the fish
  4. Note the measurement down
  5. Put the fish back in the water for a minute so it can breath, if it’s dead, skip to the next step
  6. Lift the fish and run the tape around the body at the widest point of the fish
  7. Note the measurement down
  8. Put the fish back in the water for a minute so it can breath, if it’s dead, skip to the next step
  9. Weigh the fish using a net weigher
  10. Put the fish in the water until it’s strong enough to swim away
  11. Move on to preserving it for taxidermy

How To Preserve A Fish For Mounting?

No matter what freshwater or saltwater species you’re looking to skin mount for display, if you want it to be of good quality, you need to follow these steps to freeze it. Freezing it will preserve the skin colors to point and the fish parts used for the mount.

How To Freeze A Fish For Mounting?

How to Freeze a Fish for Mounting – Taxidermy

After catching the fish and taking pictures, weights, and measures as laid out above, it’s time to get it ready to freeze. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Minimize handling of the fish to ensure the skin retains all its scales
  • Do not gut the fish
  • Take the fish to your freezer as quickly as possible
  • Choose which side of the fish looks the best
  • This is the side that will be visible on the mount
  • Place the it best side up on a flat surface like a chopping board
  • Do not put it in a plastic bag or wrap in newspaper
  • Put it in the freezer until it is completely frozen – This takes about 3 days
  • Mist the it with water to create an ice coat
  • Contact your taxidermist and book an appointment
  • Take the fish to the taxidermy appointment on a flat surface in a cool box with ice

How Long Can You Freeze A Fish Before Mounting?

If you have followed the process above correctly, you can keep a fish in the freezer for up to 6 months and sometimes even a year and it can still be mounted.

This means you have some time to organize everything for taxidermy as long as you have followed the preservation steps properly.

FAQs

How Much Does It Cost To Mount A Fish?

There are three things that affect how much a mount will cost you and these include; the quality and pricing of the taxidermist, the size of your catch, and the species you want mounted.

For example a sailfish costs more than a trout to mount – more on species later.

Taxidermist

Taxidermy is not easy and it requires a very artistic skill set and therefore, taxidermy is quite expensive.

Taxidermy also gets more expensive depending on the quality of the taxidermist you choose.

If you pick a taxidermy legend, it’s going to cost more than if you choose someone new to taxidermy trying to make a name for themselves.

TIP

Always choose a taxidermist with a reputation and ask to see some of their work to ensure the quality is up to your standards.

Size

Fisherman Holding a Carp
Fisherman Holding a Carp

Taxidermy is charged per inch and therefore the size of the fish you want mounted is a direct indication of how much the taxidermy is going to cost.

The average price is between $10 to $20 per inch depending on the species, so if you want a 30 inch mount on your wall it’ll cost between $300 and $600.

Species

Skinning, preserving, and painting different species requires a different amount of work which means different species cost more or less per inch than others. For example, trout cost around $16 per inch but billfish cost around $17.50 per inch as they are more technical to handle.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Fish Mounted?

If you are having a skin mount it will take on average anywhere between 8 months and 2 years to get your mount back.

This depends on a lot of things though including how busing the taxidermist is, the size of the mount, and how much detail is required

Replica mounts come back a lot quicker, usually within 4 months as they don’t require skinning or the preservation of the different fish parts.

How Do You Clean A Wall Mounted Fish?

The three things that will cause your mount to degrade are sunlight, smoke, and dust, therefore do not hang your mount near a fire, in direct sunlight, or in an area where people smoke.

To clean your mount, wipe it often using a damp lint free cloth and if it degrades too much, you can return it to a taxidermist to have it stripped and refinished.

Replicas will last a long longer than skin mounts, FYI, due to the fragile thin skin used in a skin mount. But with proper care they will last for years.

Mounting Up

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and now know everything you need to know about mounting fish and how to prepare for it.

If you need information on the best brolley system, I have you covered.

Mounting fish is a great way to remember an awesome moment in your fishing lifetime, and I’d recommend getting a replica so the fish gets to swim away.

Feel Free To Share!

Please share the article with your fishing buddies and check out some of my other articles too. I cover everything from rod and reel types, to how to spool reels, build rigs, and even answers to questions like “Do bass have teeth?“.

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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