Taxidermy Fish with Monty Wright
Each time we head out fishing we all dream of capturing that large fish but in many cases are poorly prepared if it does happen. What should you carry with you to be prepared? One of the first things should be a large plastic bag suitable for covering a fish of up to one metre in length. There are two
reasons for this. You have to keep as much moisture as possible in with the fish while you transport it to a suitable place for chilling and further preparation.
The other important piece of equipment is a camera. As soon as the fish is taken from the water it should be photographed several times. Don’t be mean with the film as this is generally a once in a lifetime opportunity. If the person with you has a camera get them to also take two or three photographs just in case the exposure is not quite right.
On no account gut the fish. As soon as you have wrapped it in the plastic with some water inside the bag head put it somewhere suitable so the fish cools down. In the shade in a moist damp place or if this is impossible you should immediately bury the fish in the gravel on the shore edge, but on no account leave it to get dried out. The first thing that will damage the mount is the fins drying out and cracking at the ends. This makes it very difficult for the taxidermist to do a top job with the fish.
The fish that we are going to mount comes from the Hawea area and weighed 16.5lb. It was caught by Denis Brundell of Dunedin (Photo 1). Now that you have the fish all damped down and in your plastic bag and in a cool state you should get it to a chiller for preparation.
First, you need to choose which side of the ﬁsh you want to be mounted. Check all the fins to make sure there is no damage and look for blemishes on the skin in order to choose the correct side. Often one side of the fish is a better colour than the other and this should also be taken into account. You next need a wide piece of board, longer than the ﬁsh, which you can lay the fish out on. Cover the board with Gladwrap, one good layer end by end, and then wrap the Gladwrap around the board to hold it in place.
Under the Pectoral and pelvic fin place, a section of Gladwrap (Photo 2) then lay the two fins back against the body. On the back of the Dorsal, Adipose, Tail and Anal fin, do exactly the same. Then wrap the complete fish in Gladwrap. Do not be mean – put as many lavers over it as possible.
Now the fish is ready for freezing. Make sure when freezing it that it is laid out ﬂat and there is no pressure on the tail or any of the fins that could cause damage to them in any way. Of course, if you are handy to a taxidermist he will do the work for you.
Next is to select a suitable taxidermist. In this case, we chose Denis Collins in Invercargill to mount the ﬁsh. You need to get in touch with the taxidermist and inform him that you have the fish and you wish to have a price to mount it and inform him of its length. If you are satisfied then
courier the fish directly to the taxidermist when you know he is going to be at home. Send the colour photographs with the fish and ask him to return them when he is finished with the colouring.
In most cases, taxidermists will ask for half of the money before they start the fish and the other half on completion. You have to decide whether you want a straight mount or a C mount which has a curve in it, a dropped tail or a straight tail, and mounted on a plain background, no background, a gravel background or even free-standing.
Don’t let the fins dry out.
Don’t gut the fish.
Don’t scale the ﬁsh.
Don’t just freeze the fish in a plastic bag.
Don’t use any material such as cheese-cloth over the ﬁsh as it will imprint onto the scales.
Don’t keep it in the freezer too long as you also get damage from freezer burn which in some cases is hard to cover up.
If you are having a ﬁsh mounted ask the taxidermist to show you some fish that he had already done. Remember, this ornament will be with you for the rest of your life and in many cases with your family long after you have gone. A good job is essential. There are many taxidermists in New Zealand who can carry out this work very successfully.
Pete from Wildmount, New Zealand, based in Marlborough, offers some excellent advice for those considering having a fish mounted. Pete specializes in trout, salmon or snapper taxidermy. Check out the pictures and more info here at Wildmount New Zealand.