Let me begin by saying I have zero training in taxidermy and the thought of stuffing hides seems really complicated and not worth it to me. That being said, I have seen these tuna tails in my uncle?s basement ever since I was a kid and when we went fishing several weeks ago, I decided I would have some of my own.
Tuna fishing in itself is a complicated sport and quite worthy of its own article. Needless to say, a fish must be available before any sort of preservation can be done to it.
These two monsters here (194 lbs and 149 lbs) we caught two years ago and from them my uncle has awesome tails.
My fish were smaller, in the sixty-eighty pound range, but still with decent sized tails.
The first step was to cut the tails off the fish after the fish have been filleted. This involved using this huge, Rambo-esque knife, which was fun in its own right.
Once I got my tails home, the waiting game began; the tails had to dry out. The fish were of course live things and even their slimy tails are full of meat and other fluids that have to not be there. As such I left them out on the back porch for five days to dry out, though the rain undid some of the first days? drying and I had to wait another couple days, for eight in total. Fear that a sneaky raccoon or other animal would snatch my tails, I also took the precautionary step of placing a brick over part of the tails so that they could not be easily taken. The sun did its trick and the tails got almost crispy and the meat dried out, though they still had a hint of old flesh smell.
Once they were good and dried out, it was varnishing time. My uncle dug out some old marine varnish from his basement. I also finagled a paintbrush, a cup with paint thinner in it and some cardboard to do the varnishing on.
The varnish was a bitch to open even with a screwdriver and was sticky as shit, so after my first coat I decided it worthwhile to invest in some rubber gloves.
After that first sticky coat, I got a nice and nasty surprise: maggots. Flies had been buzzing and feasting on the drying flesh all week and as such maggots were in the tail. The varnish sure took care of that. Apparently maggots hate varnish and they all started coming out of the tail after I left it to dry. A couple unlucky buggers got stuck to the varnish coated cardboard and were petrified. A few are probably entombed in the tail forever. Sucks to be them.
I put coat after coat on these things, which took a long time considering it takes at least an hour until another coat can be put on. In the end five coats was my number and the final result looks pretty sick.
My trip into taxidermy was a pain in the ass and I would have to catch or kill something really awesome for it to be worth doing again. I say it was worth it though. My tails are sweet looking and will be a great conversation piece in my new apartment.
So all of you out there who see some random ass thing somewhere and want one yourself, it may be a bitch, but it is possible to get it.