The fish of a lifetime is in your net, boatside, or on the stringer. So, what do you do next?
Catch and Release The clock is running. If you want a picture, do it quick and in a hurry. Keep the fish wet and handle it carefully. Do not drop it or roll it around in the sand, grass, or gravel. This will kill the fish for sure. Ideally, its best to contain the fish in the water until the camera is ready. Then, Say Cheese and get your memory. Now revive and release this amazing fish.
Kill It! If the fish is to become dinner, kill it. Thunk it in the head with a blunt club. Once the neck is broken, you can handle the fish easily and take all the pictures that you want. A fish fighting on a stringer, or flopping in an ice chest, will secrete lactic acid into its meat/muscle. This will change the taste and flavor of the fish.
Taxidermy Time. If you plan to mount the fish. Everything you do next will determine the quality of the mount. Losing scales, shrinkage, dry skin, and rot are all a possibility. Taxidermists can only do so much. Fish begin to decompose immediately after death. Get the fish into a freezer asap. If no freezer is available, keep the fish alive on a stringer or in a caged, contained space. Take a color picture of the fish before it loses its color. Place a measurable item next to the fish to give an accurate measurement. Do not gut or scale.
Sprinkle powdered Borax or a commercial color preservative, onto the fish’s skin. Wrap the fish in a wet towel and press the fins tight to the fish’s body. Do not wrap the fish in newspaper. The ink will discolor the skin.
Put the fish, wrapped in the towel, into an airtight plastic bag. Squeeze out any air, seal, and freeze. Label and date the bag. Include your name and license #, date, etc. Chest freezers are best for a consistent temperature. The trophy fish can be in the freezer for no more than 6 months. Try to get it to a taxidermist before 3 months.
Make your own mount! Trace the shape of the fish onto a nice piece of wood. Be certain to spread the fins and tail to create a natural look. Finish the wood with a great stain and clearcoat. Mount a picture of you and the fish on top. Write any relevant information onto the reverse side of the wood.
Enjoy the memory for years!
Join Montana Grant on his Group Facebook page, Montana Fishing For Fun.