How to Store a Fish for Taxidermy

You've caught some of the largest, most impressive fish, but no one ever believes you. They end up scoffing and call your stories tall fish tales. You can permanently prove them wrong if you preserve your best catch with taxidermy. Bringing the taxidermist a beat-up and half-decomposed fish isn't going to work, however. Follow these tips if you need to store a fish for the process.
How to Store a Fish for Taxidermy


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Wet towel
  • Cooler and ice
  • Bucket and water (optional)
Step 1
Prepare your holding tank. Fill a cooler with ice, and have a wet towel at the ready. The size of the cooler and the towel depend on the size of the fish you intend to nab. Don't go any smaller than a traditional size bath towel and a cooler that is large enough to lay the fish flat without twisting or bending.
Step 2
Handle the fish with extra care while reeling it in. Preserve the scales and skin by making sure the fish does not bounce or get banged around. Slide the fish gently into a bucket or onto a soft surface, such as a wet towel. Remove any hooks with equal care so you don't rip up the fish's mouth.
Step 3
Wrap it. Place your fish in the center of your wet towel, if it's not there already, and gently wrap the towel around it. Fold the towel in half to cover the fish, then repeatedly turn the fish over while wrapped in the towel's first layer to add additional layers. Fold the towel's ends inward, over opposite sides, to further cushion and secure the fish.
Step 4
Store it. Put the fish bundle into your cooler full of ice, and secure the lid.
Step 5
Deliver as quickly as possible. Get to the taxidermist as fast as you can to help keep the full fish intact. Keep refreshing the ice in the cooler as needed.

Tips & Warnings

If you are unable to deliver the fish to the taxidermist for some time, keep the fish alive in a bucket of water for as long as possible. Once the fish is dead, decomposition begins immediately, even if the signs are not immediately apparent.
If you have to ship the fish to the taxidermist, use a Styrofoam box with freezer packs, and keep the fish wrapped in a soft towel. Also use an expedited delivery service.
Use a cold, wet towel, not a hot, wet towel to wrap your fish. You can even store the towel in the cooler to keep it cool while you're waiting to catch your fish.
Never clean, gut or scale a fish you want to have mounted. Leave the full fish intact.

Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.

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