How to Build Fish Decoys

How to Build Fish Decoys
Fish decoys are often used by those spear fishing, especially in northern lakes during the winter, when ice allows the anglers to hover in an area and wait for a keeper-sized fish to come along. For some the sport is not only in spearing a large northern pike but also in making the fish decoys. These decoys can be quite elaborate, and thus will require a steady hand and someone who has the ability to develop a certain artistic flair. Previous woodworking experience might not be necessary but is certainly helpful.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Models
  • Wood
  • Saw
  • Knife
  • Chisel
  • Two-part epoxy
  • Eyes
  • Drill
  • Lead
  • Paint
  • Wood sealer
 
Step 1
Choose the type of fish you want to make. Each fish will look different and have different coloring. While no wooden fish decoy will look 100 percent lifelike, it is always best to come as close to possible. Therefore, getting a model of the fish, even pictures from the Internet or an outdoors magazine, will help you make a template that will be needed later in the process.
Step 2
Select the type of wood you want to use. White cedar is a good choice because it holds up well in water and is fairly easy to carve. However, other types of wood could also be used, if there is no white cedar available or if you have a personal preference.
Step 3
Cut the wood with a saw after placing a template on it. Try to find a piece of wood only slightly larger than your template, as this means less cutting and carving.
Step 4
Carve the fish. This should be done using knives and chisels. Start with the head and work your way around to the rest of the fish. If you are using a wooden tail, remember to carve it with a curve, either to the left or right. Metal tails can also be used, though, and might provide some additional flexibility.
Step 5
Sand and make the slits for the fins. The sanding provides a smooth surface, and the slits are needed for the fins. Remember that the fins will need to be bigger than they are on live fish so that it can move through the water as desired. The slits can be made using a knife or electric wood-burning pen.
Step 6
Insert the eyes and fins. Eyes for fish can be purchased through a local taxidermy supply company or might be available at an art and crafts store. Using a two-part epoxy is a good way to keep the eyes in place, but wait before gluing in the fins permanently.
Step 7
Weight the decoy. Balance the decoy on your finger, and with a pen, mark the spot where it begins to teeter. This is the center of balance.
Step 8
Drill a slot from that center of balance to the point where the back of the fish's gills would be, approximately. The slot should penetrate one-third of the way into the decoy and be half the width of the underside of the decoy. Fill it a third of the way with liquid lead, wait for it to solidify, then test it in a tank. If the fish sinks at a leisurely rate, you are finished. If not, add more lead and repeat the process. Once the fish is weighted, use an epoxy to set the fins.
Step 9
Use a sealer and begin painting the fish. This is generally the easy part, but often the most satisfying for those who make their own decoys. A good wood sealer is needed to protect the decoy from the water it will be subjected to over the course of its life.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
After cutting the fish, draw a line down the center for a good frame of reference for the other aspects such as marking the fins and drilling the weight hole. Fins can be made by carving more wood or even by using thin pieces of aluminum.
 
After cutting the fish, draw a line down the center for a good frame of reference for the other aspects such as marking the fins and drilling the weight hole.
 
Fins can be made by carving more wood or even by using thin pieces of aluminum.
 
Make sure you use an epoxy that is effective in water, or your fins and eyes might quickly fall off.

Article Written By Kenneth Black

Kenneth Black has been a freelance writer since 2008. He currently works as a staff writer for "The Times Republican" in Central Iowa. He has written extensively on a variety of topics, including business, politics, family life and travel. Black holds a bachelor's degree in business marketing from the University of Phoenix.

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