An Outdoor View: How to make fish

  • By Les Palmer
  • Thursday, November 27, 2014 4:26pm
  • Opinion

When fishing opportunities are limited, you can always make fish.

One way or another, people have been making fish since early Man drew them on the walls of caves. We did it back then for the same reasons we do it now, because fish are beautiful, mysterious and fascinating. Because fish are as agile and graceful as birds, able to hover, climb, dive and even fly.

Like fishing, making fish can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be. From pre-schoolers on, anyone can do it. The fish can range from cardboard cutouts to intricate carvings, and everything in between. To get started, simply search the Internet for “how to make a fish.”

Japanese fish prints, or gyotaku, are fun to make, and even a young child can do it. A gyotaku print can be a work of art, nice enough to frame and display. In short, it’s done by applying ink or paint to a fish, and placing paper on the fish. When the paper is removed, you have a fish print. You can learn a lot about gyotaku on the Internet by doing a search for gyotaku on YouTube. All you need is a fish, rice paper, water-soluble paint and an inexpensive paintbrush. Small, flat fish are easiest to work with, but any fish will do. With fabric paint, you can make a unique T-shirt. Everything but the fish can be found at stores that sell art supplies.

I’m not very good at carving, but I’ve made some wooden fish that turned out nice enough to become part of what passes for decor at my house. One easy way to make a fish from wood is to draw or trace the fish onto paper for a pattern, then transfer it to a board. After cutting a rough outline with a coping saw or jig saw, give it a hand-made look with a knife and other tools. I’ve found that rough-cut spruce, which is cheap and available locally, works well for this. You can stain it, paint it or leave it natural. Rough wood grain gives a carved fish character, as do accidental slices and gouges. You can carve your house numbers into a fish, and nail it to the wall or a tree. My best carving effort to date has been a halibut that I carved from a wide, spruce plank, doing most of the shaping with a chainsaw. It turned out nice enough to hang in the living room.

Fish make great Christmas tree ornaments, and some of the best, longest-lasting of these are made by children. Gather some simple, inexpensive materials, and you’re in business. At you’ll find some ways to keep kids happy for hours.

If you’re up to a challenge, try making an origami fish. You’ll find instructions on the Internet, in both photo and video format. Origami fish make neat ornaments. I don’t recall ever using the word “quilting” in this column, but here it is.

Quilters have many ways to apply images to fabric. A quilt made from 12 of Ray Troll’s fishing-theme T-shirts hangs on my dining room wall. What would be a more appropriate gift for someone who likes fish than a fish-themed quilt?

Home-made fish make unique, much-appreciated gifts. One of my wife’s favorite pieces of jewelry is a necklace that I made with a halibut tail that I carved from a piece of fossilized mammoth tusk.

Use your imagination. If you’re good at welding or brazing and can scrounge up some scrap metal, make some fish. Salmon skeletons on the river bank are free, and should give you ideas. Using heavy-duty shears and sheet metal, make fish wind chimes. Make a humpy-shaped birthday cake.

Whatever you do, have fun doing it. The next thing you know, it’ll be time to go after the real thing again.

Les Palmer can be reached at

More in Opinion

LaDawn Druce asks Sen. Jesse Bjorkman a question during a town hall event on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Addressing Kenai Peninsula’s education and public safety employee shortage

Many of our best and brightest educators take a hard and close look at the teacher’s retirement system in Alaska early in their careers and are stunned

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Providing for generations of Alaskans

As a public endowment, the wealth of the Fund is the responsibility of every resident of the state

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney greet each other outside the chamber at the U.S. Capitol on April 5, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP file photo)
Opinion: Alaska’s senators and Mitt Romney

When newly elected Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, began his term five years… Continue reading

A line of voters runs out the door of the Diamond Ridge Voting Precinct at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. Chamber Executive Director Brad Anderson said he had never seen the amount of people coming through the polling place. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
How many ways can you vote?

Multiple ballot options available to voters

UAA Provost Denise Runge photographed outside the Administration and Humanities Building.
Opinion: UAA offers affordable and convenient pathways that prepare students for the next step

At UAA, we provide numerous academic programs designed to meet specific workforce needs

scales of justice (File photo)
Opinion: The Dubious Dunleavy Deal to use public dollars for personal legal costs

In 2019, these regulation changes were ultimately abandoned without public notice

A 2022 voter information pamphlet rests on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Where to find voter pamphlets

Be educated about what you are voting on

Trustees and staff discuss management and investment of the Alaska Permanent Fund. (Courtesy Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation)
Providing Alaska-based opportunities for professional talent

Expanding our in-state presence by opening a satellite office in Anchorage has been part of the fund’s strategic plan for the past four years

Ben Carson (center) visits Iditarod Elementary School in Wasilla with Gov. Mike Dunleavy (to Carson’s right) on Tuesday. (Official photo from the Office of the Governor)
Opinion: Embarrassing Alaska through neglectful governance

When Gov. Mike Dunleavy learned Dr. Ben Carson would be speaking in… Continue reading

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Municipal government? What are their responsibilities?

Municipal governments (boroughs and cities) are similar to state and federal governments

A voting booth for the Kenai Peninsula Borough and City of Homer elections at Cowles Council Chambers on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/ Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: Will you vote?

Kenai Peninsula Votes is asking the reader if you have a plan for how you will vote