*** This is meant only as general information on how to preserve your catch before taking it to the taxidermist. For optimal preservation of your animal for display purposes, you should bring the animal to the taxidermist as soon as possible. It is suggested to contact your taxidermist before you plan on getting your next great catch to see which way is best for preserving your animal depending on the taxidermist's availability. For more specific information, please feel free to contact J.R.'s Taxidermy directly; I would be happy to help. ***
Fish Preservation and Storing for Taxidermy
Before you bring your fish to a taxidermist, you should take care of the skin to protect it from damage. The better the condition of the skin the better the finished product will look.
If you are able to take your animal directly to the taxidermist, you should keep it cool on ice and deliver it as soon as possible. Decomposition of the fish starts immediately, even though signs of it may not be visible. This is why it is important to take the appropriate steps to protect your fish. If you are unable to bring the fish to the taxidermist within 24 hours, you should freeze it.
You should avoid freezer burns to the fish. Clean the fish of debris and dirt by running clean water over it. The best way to freeze the fish is by wrapping it into a wet towel and putting it in a plastic bag. Then, you should put it in a larger plastic garbage bag, and place it in the freezer. You should lay it flat and avoid placing anything on top of it.
If you have time, before wrapping the fish in a wet towel, you can place cardboard around the fins, tail and gills. Simply cut out pieces of cardboard (cereal box, cookie box, etc) a little larger than each part and place it on each side with bobby pins. This procedure will help avoid the fins, tail and gills from breaking up and shrink once frozen.
You should bring the fish still frozen to the taxidermist; do not thaw it. Do not attempt to preserve the fish with salt or any other preservative agents, as the fish should remain in its natural state. Do not gut or scale the fish, as it should remain intact. The meat will be returned to you if desired. Do not wrap the fish in newspaper as it will draw moisture from the fish and dry up your catch. Do not put tape tightly around the towel of plastic bag when wrapping your fish, as it may leave permanent damage to the fish.
Feel free to take a picture of your catch to share your story. A copy to your taxidermist will also help to repaint your fish and make for a more realistic display.