How to Build a Fish Cleaning Station on a Dock

Have you ever wanted to build a fish cleaning station but you didn’t know how? Have you considered purchasing a fish table? Let me show you how to build a DIY fish cleaning table the easy way; even a novice DIY’er can complete this!

Picture this; you get back from a long trip out to sea or maybe you just returned from your favorite fishing outfitter. You can’t wait to get the grill out and cook your fresh catch, you’ve just got to clean them first. Whomp whomp whomp, the dreaded fish cleaning.

How can you make cleaning fish more enjoyable and less messy? You can’t. One thing you CAN do is build you own fish cleaning station right off the boat (or in your yard) so you don’t have to worry about carrying the fish guts in the house. Your wife will thank you.

Fish cleaning table BEFORE the build

Materials for the DIY fish cleaning station

  • Filet/prep Board or Cutting Board
  • (2) 4’x4’x8′ Pressure-Treated Posts
  • (3) 2’x6’x6′ Pressure-Treated Boards
  • (5) 5/4″x6″x8′ Pressure-Treated Decking Boards
  • (4) 2″x2″x42″ Pressure-Treated Mitered 1-End B1E Baluster Boards
  • (4) Simpson Strong-Tie Post Base for 4x Nominal Lumber
  • 1-lb. box of #9 x 1-5/8″ Star Flat-Head Wood Deck Screws
  • 1-lb. box of #9 x 2-1/2″ Star Flat-Head Wood Deck Screws

How to build a fish cleaning station

  • Step One; Measure the space.

This measurement is totally up to you and how large you want the cleaning table to be. I didn’t want the table to take up a large area on the dock so I decided to make my table roughly 2’x4-1/2′.

measuring for the fish cleaning station
  • Step 2; Determine the height that you want the table to be, which will determine the height of your 4×4 posts.

I wanted the table to be tall enough so that I did not have to bend over while cleaning fish. However, I did not want it to be so tall that it would cause shoulder fatigue while cleaning fish. The way I determined the proper height for me was by using a tape measure to measure from the ground up to my elbow.

The measurement for me was 42-inches, but I decided to make my table height 40-inches, which would allow me to relax my arms and shoulders a little while cleaning fish. This height can vary from person to person and is a personal preference to who all will be using the table. If multiple people will be using the table, I would recommend coming up with an average elbow height of the people that will be using it.

Another option is to use the elbow height measurement of the shortest person that will be using the table. This will ensure that the table will not be too tall for anyone using it.

After determining the height that you want your table, cut the 4×4 post to the preferred length four times. These four posts that you cut will be the corner posts for your table. I used a circular saw to make my cuts.

fish cleaning table 4 by 4's
  • Step Three; Attach the 4×4 posts to the existing decking on the pier or dock.

Use the (4) Simpson Strong-Tie Post Bases at each corner of your table area. Measure the desired width and length that you want your table to be and mark these locations on the existing decking.

The width and length of table is up to each individual and will vary from person to person. I wanted my table to be large enough for my filet knives and fish to be on the table at the same time.

I chose to make my table approximately 2’x4-1/2′ and attached the Simpson Strong-Tie Post Bases at each corner of those measurements. I used (4) #9 1-5/8″ decking screws to fasten each post base to the existing decking. (Note: Simpson Strong Ties has screws that are made to attach to the post bases, but I chose to use existing screws that I already had.)

Simpson Strong Tie post bases
  • Step Four; Attach the 4×4 posts that you cut in the second step to the Simpson Strong Tie post bases.

I used (6) #9 1-5/8″ decking screws to attach each 4×4 post.

attaching the 4 by 4 posts to the deck
attaching the 4 by 4 posts to the deck
attaching the 4 by 4 posts to the deck
attaching the 4 by 4 posts to the deck
  • Step 5; Cut and attach the 2×6 boards to the outside edges of the 4×4 posts.

My table is 2’x4-1/2′ so I cut (2) boards at 2′-length and (2) boards at 4-1/2′ length.

I also cut (2) boards at a length of 21″ to install in the middle of the table which will provide added support. (See pictures below.) I used (4) #9 2-1/2″ decking screws to attach each of the 2×6 boards to the 4×4 posts. (16 screws)

attaching the outside boards to the DIY fish table
attaching the outside boards to the DIY fillet table
Sides installed for the fillet table or fish cleaning station
sides installed for the table
  • Step 6; Cut the (5) 5/4″x6″ Pressure-Treated Decking Boards to the desired length of your table. (The boards on my table are cut to 4-1/2′ in length.).

Attach the boards to the previously installed 2×6 boards using the #9 1-5/8″ decking screws. I used (8) screws per board. (40 Screws)

Installing fillet table table top
Installing fillet table table top
fish cleaning table top
  • Step 7; Install railing around the perimeter of the table top.

In this step, I used the (4) 2″x2″x42″ Pressure-Treated Mitered 1-End B1E Baluster Boards to make a perimeter around the table top.

The baluster boards provide a barrier that will help keep your knives and other objects from accidentally being knocked off the table into the water, but also provide a clean, finished look to the table top. I used the #9 1-5/8″ decking screws to attach the baluster boards to the table top.

I cut (2) boards to a length of 2′ for the sides. On the back of the table, I used (1) 42″ baluster board on the back left side of the table top.

Next, I cut a 4″ piece of the baluster board and attached it to the back right corner of the table. By doing this, I created an 8″ gap on the back of the table that will allow water, fish scales, and anything else to be easily washed off the table.

Finally, I cut a 12″ piece of baluster board and attached it over the top of the gap. This doesn’t have to be done, but I think it gives the table a finished look.

Installing railing around the fillet table
Installing railing around table
  • Step 8; Attach the cutting board.

I used (4) #9 1-5/8″ decking screws to attach the cutting board.

The cutting board can be placed anywhere you prefer on the table, but I chose to offset mine a little to the left side of the table. I did this in order to provide a little more room on the right side of the table to lay my filet knives. Good Luck and Happy Fishing!

fillet/prep board
fish station prep board installed
fish cleaning table
finished fillet/prep cleaning station
DIY fish cleaning station
how to build a fish cleaning station on a dock

Do you think this DIY fish table is easy enough for you to install? I hope so. Drop us a comment and let us know if you built one of these for yourself!

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