How to Carve Fish Decoys

A beautiful form of art, the fish decoy can be both visually appealing and functionally sound. Generally made from cedar wood or other light wood that won’t crack or shrink when wet, catch and release fishermen prefer these to traditional hooks because they believe it won’t hurt the fish.

Required Materials/Tools

  • Some fish carving patterns
  • Heavy cardboard
  • White cedar wood or any wood that is water resistant
  • Copper or aluminum metal sheets
  • A sharp wood knife or chisel
  • A sealing finish
  • A few colors of paint
  • Some lacquer
  • Sander
  • Glass eyes (don’t get the plastic googlie eyes!)
  • Liquid lead
  • A pencil
  • An eraser
  • A ruler or straight edge
  • A band saw
  • An electric wood burn pen


  1. Before you start, you need to figure out what it’s going to look like. There are plenty of online resources that will give designs. Decide if you want it to be on display or used the next time you’re out on the lake.
  2. Make sure the length of the decoy matches the legal length of fish that can be baited in the water you’re going to be fishing in.
  3. You need to find some patterns; these can be found on fishing sites, magazines and books.
  4. Now the fun is about to start!


  1. After you find the desired template, we need to transfer it onto the wood block. Print or copy the template and transfer it onto a sheet of cardboard by stencil or carbon sheets. The cardboard can be recycled cardboard; you shouldn’t waste money on new sheets. Anything will do.
  2. Lay the template down against the block of wood and trace the outline. Using a band saw cut the outline out.
  3. Draw a line down the center of the outline, and then carve the details of the fish decoy. If you want your fish to have a metal tail, leave the end of the fish blunt.
  4. You can carve slots for the metal fins with your knife, or if you have an electric wood burner pet, you can use that.
  5. Time to give sight to the blind! Attach the glass eyes into their slots using a clear epoxy.
  6. Next we need to balance the fish. Set the decoy on the ruler’s edge until it is balanced. Mark it with a pencil. Mark this point on the fish’s underbelly, and on the gills. Carve out small holes at these spots.
  7. Now we need to coat the fish with a sealer finish.
  8. Drop a few drops of heated lead into the gill holes and belly hole. The best way to check if the right about is in there, drop your fish it a tank of water and see if it can swim! It should propel forward on its own. If not, add a few more drops into the gills!
  9. We need to let the fish dry overnight. Add a few more coats of finish and then paint the fish how you want.
  10. Add the finishing touches by attaching the metal fins and tail.
  11. Give the fish one final coat of lacquer. Take it out with you next time you want to catch that next big one, or hang it on your wall!

A lot of fishermen find peace making their own lures. These can also be great gifts for a fisherman in your family! Decorate the lure with the colors of your favorite football team; paint the initials of the recipient across the side, your only limited by your imagination!

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