Like every offseason catcher, sometimes you are lucky enough to catch an elegant trophy fish and want to mount it in the smartest way possible. However, the question is, how much is the cost for your own personal high-quality trophy fish to be done correctly?
- The cost of taxidermy
- Choosing the best method: skin taxidermy or replica
- How to prepare the fish before the stuffing process?
The cost of taxidermy
The most important thing to consider is that the price of fish skin mounting depends not only on your taxidermist but also on the species and the size of your fish. So what is the estimated price you should expect for your own personal fish wall trophy?
You should always remember that higher prices mean higher quality when taxidermy. A lower price may result in a much lower quality trophy that constantly needs to be restored, which can become more expensive as time goes on. For that reason, It is much better to get the job done properly.
Most taxidermists tend to charge per inch of length when they stuff a fish. You might find the average price of your personal fish mount based on the answers we got from 11 different taxidermy shops as follow:
Fish species Price per inch
- Bass: $11-$15
- Walleye: $11-$15
- Pike: $11-$15
- Trout: $14-$18
- Salmon: $14-$18
- Striped Bass: $15-$20
- Tarpon: $15-$20
- Snook: $15-$20
- Billfish: $15-$20
Replica fish mounts (all species)
The prices can be really different compared to the above table. However, the average cost might be the same for taxidermy shops with a decent reputation.
Many taxidermists have a minimum charge that you also need to consider. So even if your fish belongs to a smaller species (a panfish, for example), the cost per inch might still be higher since it wouldn’t be worth their time to stuff it otherwise.
The fish type will dictate the cost of the mounting process
When it comes to skin mounting, there are three main groups classified by Taxidermists:
- Warm water fish (Bass, walleye, pike, etc.): $11-$15/inch
- Coldwater fish (salmon, trout, etc.): $14-$18/inch
- Saltwater fish: $15-$20/inch
Generally, cold-water and saltwater fish are more expensive than their warm-water counterparts since their skin tends to be oilier, thus requiring a much longer drying process. Most freshwater gamefish are classified as warm-water fish, except for the Salmonidae family, including trout, salmon, and char, which belong to the cold-water fish.
Warm water fish basically includes all freshwater game fish, except for salmonid species such as trout, salmon, and char, which belong to cold-water fish.
Choosing the best method: skin taxidermy or replica
Generally, the fish taxidermy process can be done in 2 following ways:
In the skin taxidermy method, the taxidermist carefully removes the skin and other parts of the fish, such as the head and tails, then the fish will be wrapped around a foam mold that resembles it in both sizes and shapes. This method ensures that you can get an actual physical part of the fish you caught included inside the final product.
There is another method called the replica creation method. You need to provide your exact measurements and fish details to the classifier. A highly accurate replica of the fish you catch will be artificially created, meaning you don’t have to do it yourself and send the actual fish carcass to the store.
Of course, you may be disappointed by this method because a clone doesn’t have much to do with the original fish you caught. But keep in mind that even the method of skin grading is built around a plastic mold, with heavy use of spray-on artificial colors to replace the fish’s natural color that fades during drying.
In my personal opinion, rather than the price, the quality of the work is a much more important thing to consider; paying $8 per inch for a shabby figure that you are too ashamed to display is a much worse deal than paying $15 for a high-quality replica that can be hung up for an extended period of time.
Most professional taxidermists will accept fish from all over the country, so you’re not restricted to choosing the ones close to you.
How to prepare the fish before the stuffing process?
What should you do when you want to stuff the trophy fish you caught? The process might differ depending on which method you choose; the skin mounting method is much more complicated since it requires you to preserve the skin for taxidermy.
Before starting up, you need to choose the “show side,” which is the size of the fish that you want to display. You must keep this side up when you store the fish to avoid abrasion. And the most essential of all, avoid bleeding, gutting, or damaging the fish in any way.
Steps for skin taxidermy
- Rinse fish
- Wrap the fish gently in a sopping wet towel
- Put towel-wrapped fish inside a large plastic bag, and tape it shut
- After that, place the fish inside the freezer (with the “show side” facing up)
- Keep the fish in the freezer for at least 2 days until it is properly completely frozen
Once you’ve found the right taxidermist for the job, you can contact a courier service specializing in frozen goods and have them deliver the frozen fish to the taxidermy shop.
Steps for replica creation
- Measure then record the length and girth of the fish using tape
- Measure weight (if possible)
- Take many photos of the fish as you can from different angles
Once you’ve decided on a taxidermy shop, you only have to send them the information about the fish you collected, and they will take care of everything else.
You might need to wait for a long time for your fish to be mounted
For a fish to be stuffed properly, the length can vary from 3 months to more than 1 year; most taxidermy shops have a 1-year turnaround time, which is the most common time length.
Even though some fish species only need a minimum of 2 months for the whole process to be completed. Keep in mind that the long periods are mostly because shops with higher reputations do have a long list of orders that they need to process before getting to yours. Some shops offer expedited service for this reason, so it might be worth asking when you contact them.
The drying process, without a doubt, is the lengthiest; it takes at least 6 weeks for warm-water fish and much longer for cold-water and saltwater fish to be properly dried up. The later species need to be dried for an extended period due to their greasy skin. If the drying process is rushed, the oil might still remain on the fish, which could leak and cause extensive damage to the final product.
So it’s better to wait as long as necessary to enjoy a high-quality result. So your trophy can be mounted on the wall for many years to come.
Fish taxidermy is a way to acknowledge your catch and keep it as a trophy, whether it’s a replica of the skin cuticle of your ideal fish. With a minimum of 10$, experts can bring your fish taxidermy symbol to life. With a low price tag to pay for a high-quality fish skin mount on your wall, you should have at least one as a souvenir.