Taxidermy Training

Why would I want to learn fish taxidermy and/or learn to paint fish replicas? Because it can be a fun and rewarding hobby or even a fantastic way to use your artistic talents to earn extra income. It’s a great feeling bringing your customer’s trophies back to life! Many taxidermists work from their homes with minimal space needed and it involves very low start-up costs. Try taking one of our intro/hobby courses to see if Fish Taxidermy is something that you might enjoy!


Any training program is only as good as its instructors. At Fish Specialties Taxidermy we offer two Chicagoland training locations and two proven instructors who also happen to be two of the best fish taxidermists in the industry. With our training courses you’ll learn 1 on 1 (Or perhaps with a second student. If we can schedule 2 students each student then receives a 20% rebate from their course price). We believe individual, hands-on training is the best way to learn. Our courses and 1 on 1 approach maximize the use of your (and our) time, giving you the best possible learning environment. We teach all levels of experience, from beginners to those with fish taxidermy experience simply looking to improve the level of their work.

Our Intro Courses:

Beginner courses for those interested in exploring the world of fish taxidermy. These courses are a lot of fun for all involved and are a great way to find out if this is something that interests you!

Intro to Traditional Taxidermy (3 days):

Our most popular course! Day 1 involves skinning and mounting your fish. The second day will be spent prepping your mount to the painting stage – backing fins and rebuilding shrunken areas. Day 3 you complete your first original skin mount learning to apply multiple layers of paint to achieve that depth that all of us strive for!

Intro to Painting Replicas (1 Day):

We teach you how to prep and paint a panfish or bass replica. Learning to paint on a white canvas (replica) can be intimidating and challenging for some. But, we break things down into an easy to learn, step-by-step process with great results that will give you the confidence you need to to take on other replicas (species) in the future!

Our Professional Courses:

These courses are designed for those serious about learning the Art of Fish Taxidermy and/or Painting Fish Replicas. Our Professional courses are designed to accommodate those individuals looking to take things to the next level. With a bigger emphasis on the finer details in producing a quality mount along with teaching more complex finishing and painting techniques. Our Pro courses are often taken by existing (non-fish) taxidermists seeking to add fish taxidermy to their services. Or beginners looking to eventually start their own fish taxidermy business.

Pro Series – Traditional Taxidermy/Original Skin Mounts – Part One (5 days):

You will learn to skin, preserve and mount one warmwater specie and one coldwater trout or salmon with the emphasis on quality and improvement with each mount. We especially focus on artistic presentation. You’ll learn the fundamentals from taking your tracings and measurements and backing fins all the way to learning how to trace and custom-carve your own fish bodies as only the best Fish Artist’s do! We follow up with professional critiques of your work so you can learn where you can improve!

Pro-Series – Traditional Taxidermy/Original Skin Mounts – Part Two (5 days):

With this week 2 Traditional Taxidermy/Original Skin Mount course we teach you how to prepare your two mounts to the painting stage and then we then how to paint your fish the way we paint – nothing is held back! You’ll learn our unique method to reinforce your fins for a super strong and clean, finished look. We teach you how to fix defects and damage that almost all fish have. We show you the importance of good reference photos and how to interpret color. We focus on proper anatomy when rebuilding shrunken areas with epoxy work. We teach you everything you need to know to get your mounts to the painting stage and then we teach you to paint your two fish with our proven painting methods!

Pro Series – Painting (5 days):

Learn to paint up to four species (replicas and/or skin mounts). We teach you the importance of good reference photos and how to interpret those photos. You will learn to create your own “paint schedules”, or painting “recipes” for a particular specie that will provide a foundation for you that you can build upon for future fish mounts and replicas. Nothing is held back from our 60 years of combined experience! You’ll not only learn how to paint with an airbrush and artists (hand) brushes, but we also teach you plenty of other techniques that we have learned through the years including the use of charcoals, metallic and pearl powders and waxes/rubs, colored pencils, painting sticks, using steel wool, sponges and several different methods of scale tipping. You name it – techniques can be endless!

Pro Series – Restorations and Repaints (2 days):

Taxidermy restoration work is always in demand and a great way to increase your revenue. Our two-day “R&R” course is typically taken by existing taxidermists or sometimes by those interested in restoring an old mount(s) that they acquired. We teach you the various techniques used to bring an old mount back to life within a fixed budget while ensuring compatibility. Restoration work can be quite challenging at times, but also very rewarding. Please contact us for more information about this very unique course!

Our Apprenticeship Training:

Full training program covering every facet of Fish Taxidermy to fully prepare you to operate your own Fish Taxidermy studio. Includes all the Intro and Professional Courses along with free lifetime support after training available to all of those completing our unique Apprenticeship course.

Course and Program Pricing:

All courses include all supplies necessary other than specimens for skin mount training or the cost of replica/blanks (blanks are unfinished replicas) for replica training. Please ask if you need help acquiring specimens. Note: We also offer a cost-effective option for replica training (vs. purchasing your blanks) with our replica/blank rental program. We offer several common specie blanks available for rent for a nominal fee. This way our students get photos of their finished, painted replica(s) without the expense of having to purchase their blanks. Of course you’re welcome to purchase your blanks if you like too!

*1/2 day courses $189               *Full day courses $300 (each day)                  *5 day courses $1450

*Complete Apprenticeship Program (21 days). Includes all Intro and Pro Series Courses plus free lifetime support. $6000

*Custom courses: If none of our courses quite fit your needs, feel free to contact us. We’re flexible and we can tackle anything you wish to learn that has to do with fish taxidermy and we teach around YOUR schedule! $300 per day.

Course schedule/available dates:

We offer our courses on a first come, first serve basis. Limited spots available. However, because we only tutor 1-2 students at a time, we are fairly flexible with our class scheduling. Please contact us for course availability

Other Info:


A 30% deposit is required to secure your course date(s). This deposit is securing your position in your class(es) and is non-refundable except in special circumstances and then will be credited (one-time) for another course date. 40% is then due 30 days prior to your course start date. And the final, 30% payment is due prior to or on your course start date.  Once your course(s) have started there are no refunds.

Coming from out of town?

No problem. We can help with all of your trip arrangements and accommodations. Both of our training facilities are less than an hour from Chicago O’Hare or Midway Airports. And within minutes of reasonably priced hotels, restaurants and other amenities.

Career Opportunities – What about after training?

Consider becoming one of our Fish Specialties Fish Artists! We’re always looking for new talent – artists interested in learning fish taxidermy, being their own boss and running their own part-time business. In fact, part of the reason we teach taxidermy is because we get to see the most talented, motivated individuals and we know that they are trained properly. However, you don’t have to train through Fish Specialties Taxidermy to become a member of our team. We’re also interested in those creative individuals whom have already mastered the Art of Taxidermy. We need both experienced individuals and beginners to grow our team! If you were the kid in high school that loved to draw and paint and did it well – we’re interested in you! Or, if you’re a college graduate with a degree in Art and you’re looking for excellent part-time income working from your home – we’re interested in you! To find out more about this unique franchise opportunity please contact Training Coordinator Marty Shimkus at