Enjoy catching your own fish, or supporting those who do? One of the most useful additions to any private or public dock that you can install is a fish cleaning station.
If you own a private dock on a sound or other body of water and are wondering what your options are for either purchasing or building a fish cleaning station, this is the post for you.
In this blog post, I’ll break down a variety of options you can go with. There are basically two categories to choose from: fish cleaning tables and fish cleaning stations.
Fish cleaning tables vs stations
One thing to know is that some tables are very basic and great for cutting bait, while ‘stations’ are more geared for cleaning and filleting a lot of fish at one time.
Some tables can be mounted (like the one pictured above) and generally are sold alongside larger marine-grade cleaning stations.
Portable fish cleaning tables
For cleaning fish, many of the entry-level options on the market fall into the category of portable ‘fish cleaning tables’ and can be folded up. These are pretty abundant online.
While these terms are used interchangeably oftentimes, generally tables will have aluminum legs and be made of lightweight HDPE. Tables designed for cleaning will include sinks and sometimes have accessories like a sprayer included.
If this is all you really need for your dock, below are three solid fish cleaning tables you can pick up on Amazon in varying sizes that range from about $100-$200.
- HUBSE 45” folding fish cleaning table with sink
- Outsunny 50′ folding fish cleaning table with sink
- Goplus 45” folding fish cleaning table with sink and sprayer
While most ‘fish cleaning tables’ on the market are free-standing they don’t really fall in the same category as those that are dock-mounted.
In the rest of this post, I’ll break down what to know about installing something more permanent that you can mount to a dock.
Selecting a surface material for your fish cleaning station
First, let’s talk surface materials for fish cleaning stations, and what options are out there.
It is most important that the table is sturdy and that the height allows you to work safely and effectively.
1. King StarBoard®
‘Starboard’ is a name you’ll hear thrown around when it comes to fish cleaning station board materials. This refers to King StarBoard®, made by King Products that is the ‘The Original Marine-Grade Polymer Sheet’ according to their website.
You may also hear this material referred to as high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The only difference with Starboard is that it is UV-protected.
This is hands down the most durable and expensive material to build a fish cleaning table from, but well worth it for many.
It’s slightly more UV tolerant than PVC and can be purchased in sheets if you go the DIY route (more on that in a minute). If you decide to purchaseStarBoard® for a DIY project, be sure to calculate the exact dimensions you’ll need ahead of time. This stuff is expensive!
StarBoard® can also get rather slippery to cut on and dull your knives a bit quicker than surfaces like wood, but is more of a permanent solution.
While PVC is virtually everywhere these days, it’s best to pick up a marine-grade PVC for building a cleaning station, because it is typically treated to be resistant to mildew, bacteria, UV rays, and moisture.
The downside with PVC boards is that they don’t wash as well and tend to get knicked up a lot quicker.
PVC vs StarBoard®
The main difference between PVC and StarBoard® is that PVC is a softer plastic and tends to fade in the sun a bit more if not treated. For this reason, be sure to look for marine-grade materials that are designed to be left outside.
When it comes to building fish cleaning stations, some people prefer wood for this reason.
3. Wood or butcher block
One popular option for fish cleaning stations is using pressure-treated wood. These are a bit easier on fillet knives and fish tend to stay in place. Wood is a more porous surface so if you go this route stick to a hardwood.
I’ve also seen people purchase several butcher blocks to construct a larger surface, but it’s a matter of personal preference. With wood, you’ll want to wipe it down after use to avoid contamination.
4. Stainless steel
Stainless steel fish cleaning stations overall are the most expensive of the tabletop materials you can choose.
Here are a few of the reasons this might be a good choice.
- Stainless steel fish cleaning stations are sanitary and easy to clean.
- Many stainless steel cleaning stations have built-in sinks
- Stainless steel will not rust or corrode, making them ideal for coastal use
- Most are very high quality and durable
Purchasing a dock mounted fish cleaning station
If you have a private dock or looking to install one on behalf of your community, you’ll want a commercial-grade fish cleaning station that can be dock mounted.
Many commercial-grade units are actually custom built and are a little tougher to find online. A couple of sites you may want to browse is CMMarine.com and boatoutfitters.com.
However, you do have some smaller options that are more readily available on marketplaces like Amazon. You can also find stainless steel work tables
Magma Products Dock Cleaning Station
If you’re looking for a good mid-sized option, this station by Magma Products on Amazon is a great choice.
Here are some of the features that stand out:
- Contains high-quality polyethylene that won’t fade, chip, or hold odors
- A stainless steel base for mounting to your dock
- Angle adjustments for various table positions
- Stores vertically when not in use with optional cover
- Grooved sides and slotted back for easy drainage
- Engraved ruler
Gridman Stainless Steel Commercial Kitchen Table
When it comes to sanitation, you really can’t beat stainless steel. You can pick up this table on Amazon for a few hundred bucks that I think is an excellent choice..
You’ll need to find a way to mount it to your dock and add some drain vents/plumbing for removing water, but for the price, you really can’t go wrong.
Building a DIY fish cleaning table for your dock
If building your own, some people will use plexiglass or remnants of Corian counters, but I would personally opt for either wood or StarBoard® if you can afford it.
You may also want to round off the corners for safety.
With any DIY table comes the advantage of unlimited customizations to fit the space you need. Below is a short video to describe how to build one:
Mounting a fish cleaning station
Most of the kits online contain mounting bolts and brackets for this use case, but you may need to purchase some galvanized hardware or bolts if not included. Some stainless steel tables built for commercial kitchens can be used outdoors. Some people will drill slots for draining water off the table as well.
They also make boat-mounted tables for bait cutting like this one by Magma. These are smaller and can be mounted permanently or snap into mounts if that’s more your preference.
For any fish cleaning station mounted outdoors in the salt air or elements, always use galvanized or rust-proof hardware and ensure the dock surface is in good shape before mounting.
How to run water to a fish cleaning station using a pump
An essential part of ensuring your cleaning station stays clean is to run water to it. When on a dock, most people pump from the body of water itself since water lines on docks are somewhat rare.
If your dock is wired, the best solution is to have a professional install this. Another good addition is to purchase a hanging LED light for cleaning at night if your station has a canopy.
For a DIY installation, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Don’t submerge an electric pump in water. Many municipalities no longer allow this
- If using a 12V pump, have an electrician sign off on it, and make sure installation meets the National Electrical Code requirements
- For DIY jobs, some people use a manual pitcher pump or a 12V pump (that isn’t submerged) to pump water a few feet up to be used by a sprayer.
Accessories to purchase for your fish cleaning station
Once you’ve decided on a table, there are several helpful accessories you may want to consider adding while you’re at it.
Sprayers, hoses, and reels
Once installed, it’s a good idea to go ahead and pick up a hose and a sprayer with various spray patterns to fit your preferences. If you’ll be leaving it outside and don’t want to worry about it cracking, check out this
You can also pick up a self-coiling hose with a sprayer like this one to avoid needing a reel altogether.
Fillet knife set and case
If you’ll be letting friends and neighbors clean fish as well, go ahead and pick up a portable fish fillet set like this one. You can even pick up a small lock box to store a knife block or kit like this if you can mount it to your cleaning station.
You may also want to pick up things like a fish scale cleaning brush, fish cleaning gloves, scissors, a scabbard, and a knife sharpener for convenience.
Magnetic knife car for holding fillet knives
Since fish obviously come in all different shapes and sizes, another good accessory to pick up is a magnetic knife holder that you can mount at the rear of your cleaning station.
This one on Amazon is stainless steel so it won’t rust, and can be mounted to any flat surface.
The most important thing to know about fish cleaning stations is to know any regulations your town or municipality has. Especially when running electrical, you’ll want to make sure this is done by a professional so you don’t create a shocking hazard.
For private docks that aren’t shared by a community, you’ve got more freedom to do what you want.