How to prepare a fish for replicas
Even when the best of intentions exist to release your fish sometimes they just don’t make it for whatever reason. If this happens or you decide to keep a trophy that could potentially be made in to a replica it’s important to do things right.
First take a bucket load of photos with the fish showing its best side to face outwards including close ups of the head areas. Make sure you capture its colour as this will change so the first ten minutes are crucial in capturing the details.
Try not to handle the fish too much and cradle it when you do with wet hands. Avoid grabbing the tail area with your hand and lifting without supporting in any other area as this is a sure way to lose scales. The best way is to support the fish under its body under the belly and just before the tail. Take care not to damage any fins also as this can influence the end result. Larger pelagic fish are even more fragile and the fine scales are easily damaged so care is important when handling.
Once you have taken any photos of angler and fish place into an ice slurry with the best side facing up. If the fish is too big for the chilly bin cover it with wet towels and keep it cool and protected from the sun the best you can.
The next step is to get the fish to the replica maker or taxidermist. Sometimes this can take time so the best option is to put in the freezer however it’s best not to leave it frozen for too long. An acceptable amount of time for a fish to remain in this freezer is 12 to 18 months with two years often still okay. In some cases even older than this depending on how well it has been looked after beforehand.
Placing your fish in the freezer
Good preparation is key when it comes to freezing the fish. Its best to use a piece of plywood or thick cardboard that is the same size as the fish and will stay with the fish supporting it during time in the freezer. An old bed sheet or towels will also be needed and plastic bag or wrap to finish off
Protect the fish properly.
Soak the bed sheet or towels using salt water if possible but not crucial then double up the sheet before laying on a flat surface. Now place the fish down on the sheet with the best side facing up. Fold in the fins so they sit against the body ensuring the tail fin is lying flat without any folds or creases. Now fold one side of the sheet or towel over the fish making sure it sits nicely against the body and fins without any air between them. Finish by folding the other side of the sheet in the same way as the first. You will end up with the fish completely wrapped in wet cloth which will protect it against possible freezer burn happening.
Now carefully place the wrapped fish into plastic for extra protection before sitting on the plywood or cardboard. The fish can now be lifted underneath without disturbing it and the final thing to do is secure it to the plywood or cardboard by either using plastic wrap or packing tape. Avoid wrapping it to firmly when doing the final steps and once completed then it’s ready to go in the freezer.
During the first thirty six hours try not to disturb the fish too much and avoid placing anything on top of it as this could put a dent in the body shape. When everything is done correctly as described above the result will ensure a fish that has been preserved as close to the day it came out of the water. It also makes the replica process easier to do as well as providing better results. Damage can happen at times but by minimizing it as much as possible you will save cost on the repairs to correct it.
If you are one of those anglers who likes to see trophy fish released then having a replica done using existing molds is certainly a viable option. If you are keen to explore this option then talk us about a fish replica to see what can be done