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Do you love big bluegill?

The battle is over. Your heart is still thumping hard and the adrenaline still flowing as you admire your catch of a lifetime.  What next?  Do you let it go?  It's your choice, It may survive to fight another battle.  Do you keep it to eat?  If regulations permit, it's your God giving right.  Or... do you keep it to be mounted or molded?   Preserving the memory and beauty of your catch is a good choice.

To get the most out of your mount starts right after you pull it out of the water.  Whether you're going to have it mounted as a skin mount (taxidermy) or molded (a mold made of your fish and reproduced as a replica) these simple tips will help keep your fish in the best condition before delivering it to the artisan of your choice.
Handle the fish with care as not to damage the fins or loose scales.  Try not to use a net, or use a net that will not damage the tail or fins.  If you have a camera take a picture soon after catching the fish.  This will help the artist to paint the mount accurately. 
Next step is getting the fish to the taxidermist or your freezer.  Keep the fish in a cooler with the coldest water possible.  The best is 2/3 water, 1/3 ice cubes.  Avoid putting fish directly in or on ice alone.
If you can't get it to the taxidermist right away wrap the fish in a wet cloth, place in a plastic bag and lay it on a flat surface in a freezer (not directly on a wire freezer rack as this could cause damage to the skin).  If the fish ends up being in the freezer more than a month, take the cloth wrapped fish out of the plastic bag once a month and do a quick soak in water to keep it from dehydrating.  Place it back in the plastic bag and into the freezer.  Try to get it to the taxidermist within 6 months or within 2 months if it is to be molded.
For a catch & release replica, where you release the fish and buy a replica that best represents that fish, follow these steps.
Handle the fish with care!  When reeling in the fish, don't play it out to much.  This will cause to much stress for recovery.
Avoid the use of a net if possible.  Wet your hands before you handle it.
Take a quick side shot picture of the fish, ultimately by someone else with you holding it horizontally, supporting the weight of its body.
 Take two measurements of the fish, total length and girth (widest part around body).    Use a flexible tape measure or cut fishing line to length for each measurment.
Promptly release the fish back into its watery world to fight another battle.
The first step in a quality mount starts with you.     
Good Luck & Good Fishing,
Tim

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Tim, I know this is a HOW TO we all aspire to use. Now if I knew of a taxidermest I would want to do the work, but he was several states away, is it possible to get it safely delivered somehow? Would I be just as happy with a top quality replica if I had the pictures needed and the measurements? I guess what I'm asking is, can a fisherman tell the difference when it's in his hands?
Tim, I condensed the steps you gave us and printed it out and put it in my tackle box. I'm also making copies for my grandchildren's parents for theirs. Here is a one page tackle box version.

How To Preserve A Fish For Mounting
For a mount;
• Handle the fish with care so as not to damage the fins or lose scales.
• Take a picture soon after catching the fish for accurate color.
• Keep the fish in a cooler with the coldest water possible. The best is 2/3 water, 1/3 ice cubes. Never on ice only.
• Deliver to taxidermist.
• If immediate delivery is not possible, freeze in this manner;
• Wrap the fish in a wet cloth, place in a plastic bag and lay it on a solid flat surface (not directly on wire rack) in a freezer. Remove from bag and resoak clothed fish, then rebag and return to freezer monthly.
• Get to taxidermist within 6 months. The sooner the better.

For a mold and replica or release;
• Wet your hands before you handle it.
• Take a side shot picture of the fish for color.
• Take two measurements of the fish. Total length and girth (widest part around body). Use a flexible tape measure or fishing line.
• Release for genetic future, or freeze as above for an exact mold.
• If saved for mold/replica, get to taxidermist within 2 months.
Thanks for condensing that BBM, excellent refinement.
Is it possible to deliver your frozen fish via mail? Yes, call the person that is doing your fish for instructions as they may have their own procedure.
My recommendations are; place your frozen fish in 2 more plastic bags and seal. Then place in a box with a minimum of 5-inches of some sort of insulation. Be sure the insulation is all around the fish. Most state regulations require you to include with the fish: fishing lic. #, species of fish, and when and were caught. Check your local laws for transporting fish. After you have your fish in the box and ready for shipping it is a good idea to put the box back in the freezer to get the insulation cold. Ship overnight delivery or second day. Ship on a Monday or Tuesday and make sure who ever you are sending it to knows when it will arrive.

If you choose to have a replica, you have two basic options.
1. A custom cast, which is a replica made from a mold of YOUR fish that YOU caught. You bring your fish to the artist, they make a mold of your fish and cast a reproduction (replica) from the mold. This way you have an exact copy of YOUR fish. There is no better way, in my opinion, to represent your fish. Obviously you are at the mercy of the person doing the work as to how well it is going to turn out. Before you bring your prize fish to anyone, do your home work and check out their work.

2. Catch and release. This is where you take a picture and measurements of fish and then release it.
From the measurements an artisan locates a blank (an unfinished replica) of that size. This blank would be made from a mold of a fish that someone else has caught in the past. The picture is then used as reference to finish the mount.
Would you be able to tell the difference between the two?
For most, probably not. However, all fish have their own unique characteristics and this is duplicated with a custom cast mount.

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