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,