Custom Dock Fish Cleaning Station Designs
For the record, this article is about what you need to consider in creating a custom dock fishing cleaning station. It doesn’t outline how to make a fish cleaning station. It doesn’t tell you what materials you need to buy, what tools you need to own or give any cost estimates. Building a portable fish cleaning station is a possibility but what is presented are considerations and the pros and cons in terms of building your own dock mounted fish cleaning station verses purchasing a complete unit.
The Facts of Life for a Fisherman
Here is the deal. Catching fish is fun. Eating fish is fun. Cleaning the fish that you had fun catching and will have fun eating isn’t fun. Whether you have a limit of redfish or speckled trout, a mess of bream or crappie or a bunch of catfish you still need to either filet, scale and process your catch.
In order to get the most out of your catch in the most efficient and easiest way requires a good fish cleaning station. Unfortunately, that definition is relative, depending on where you are handling your catch.
Depending on where you are fishing you may need a portable fish cleaning table. You may have to clean your catch on a board on your truck tailgate, on that board on the ground or a board on top of a cooler or on a rocking boat. Or maybe no board.
Where to Start
A dock fish cleaning station, in its simplest form, is a cutting table with slots/cuts for drainage of fish guts, scales and water and other parts possibly with some sort of overhead cover that provides protection from sun and rain. It can be that simple or more deluxe in featuring a sink, knife and water holding cuts or whatever “floats the boat” of the owner.
There are two ways to go forward on having a “custom” dock mounted fish cleaning station.
Option #1 is for a “Do-it-Yourselfer” dock mounted fish cleaning station. In essence, it is a worktable with modifications. If you search “how to make a fish cleaning station” online you will find a number of posts and videos that go through the process and even furnish free plans as to how to get going with actual specifications.
If you have the tools, the skill and the time to take this route, the world is your oyster and you can build a basic model or the “Taj Mahal” of all dock mounted fish cleaning stations. Most DIY fish cleaning stations are wooden which, in and of itself, creates an issue down the road.
Option #2 is to opt for an already built dock mounting fish cleaning station. These units range from the basic unit to the top of the line depending on your need and your wallet. While these products may not be “custom” in the fact that they aren’t “hand-made” for you, they can deliver custom features. You can even build your cleaning station “To Order” with options such as knife, cup, umbrella holders, slots for spray hoses, sinks, drainage options, dock overhang struts, a cover, virtually everything you could imagine for a dock mounted fish cleaning station.
There are a number of reputable companies in the marketplace that produce dock mounted fish cleaning stations. One of them is Killerdock, a family business located in Mobile Alabama. Killerdock manufacturers six different stations, utilizing marine grade aluminum and other state-of-the-art components.
Dock Fish Cleaning Station Issues
When it comes to dock anchored over portable fish cleaning stations, there are the good, the bad and the ugly and the designs run all over the place. Still, many self-build stations are made of wood and that results in some problems.
Rotten, Warped and Cracking Wood
Regardless of how well built a fish cleaning station on a dock is, if it is built of wood it will weather and become unstable. Regardless of whether the filleting surface is built of plywood or boards, over time it will crack, splinter and not have a level, even or safe cutting surface. In addition, because of scoring or just weathering, cracks will develop and that captures fish refuse which, over time, will start to smell, regardless of how much you sterilize. Even if you use something different for the cutting surface, the frame will succumb to weather.
“We use ½ inch King Starboard as a cutting surface,” said Killerdock Sales Manager Aaron Williamson. “It is made out of high-density polyethylene, has UV protection, you can sanitize it and it has just the right amount of a texture to it, which makes it less slippery for slippery fish.”
“It’s much more sanitary than a piece of wood simply because wood is porous and can rot and honestly, it’s not really something you want to put your food on,” Williamson noted.
Wood also needs to be continuously treated to withstand the rigors of weather, especially her in the hot humid south.
Killerdock uses only marine grade aluminum to construct their fish cleaning tables, which means they are impervious to corrosion, rotting, cracking and warping. In addition, they coat their tables with SG Marine MetalJacket XL Ceramic-Hybrid Coating, ensuring even more protection against harsh environments and fish guts.
“We build our stations out of aluminum because stainless steel will eventually rust, especially in salt environments and it just isn’t going to last. The ceramic coating we apply is a very high end product that actually bonds to the metal, not simply sitting on top, like a paint. It not only protects the aluminum but also makes it easier to clean because it puts a barrier between the metal and anything that wants to stick to it,” Williamson noted.
Dock Presence and Weight
Wood isn’t light and it’s not skinny. Most likely you will want to mount your table on 4×4’s with 2×4 and 2×6 construction and that may compromise your available “walk by” space not to mention the weight.
“The weight of a wooden deck makes it more difficult to try to hang it off the edge of the dock and that is why most wooden stations take up a lot of dock space. Our Upscales 5 model weighs 90 pounds and the Upscale 6 ½ weighs in at 120 pounds” Williamson said. “This allows them to be mounted on the edge or your dock or seawall.”
Dock fishing cleaning stations should be angled toward the back extending over the water for easy drainage and cleanup.
Joe Baya has been a professional fisherman, is a United States Coast Guard (USGC) licenses captain and has filleted thousands of pounds of fish. He believes that most cleaning tables are inadequate when it comes to drainage.
“There are some inherent flaws in almost every fish cleaning table I see. The first is that the fish cleaning station doesn’t drain correctly and it pools the slime, guts, blood, and other nasties that working up a bunch of filets can produce,” Baya said. “If the table doesn’t have the right angle or is more over the dock than the water, the scales and undesirables typically end up on the dock or on the top of your feet underneath the table.”
“All of our models have a two-degree slope away from the dock and drain down below the dock either through the legs or rear slots,” Williamson said. “Our units’ hang over the water by 19 and 21 inches, which ballows even more of your dock to stay clean and gives you more usable dock space.’
“In addition, hose stations are built into every model so no more dragging a hose across your dock,” Williamson added.
Build or Buy?
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool DIY person, with the time, tools, skill and also an avid fisherman who is going to put the dock fish cleaning station to good use, should you build or should you buy?
“I’m a DIY guy myself so I would say that if someone is going to build it out of wood and put Starboard on it for a cutting surface and install some sort of plumbing then they could put something together for less money than we charge for our base unit,” Williamson said. “It is a cheaper and short-term solution.”
“If it’s built out of wood, then in a couple of years it is going to be covered in mildew, smell pretty bad and then you will have to build it again. If we are honest, we don’t treat any of our other fishing investments this way. Why not have a fish cleaning station that will enhance your entire dock experience and last for many years?”
Baya has a final observation.
“Like it or not, what you have on your dock is a direct reflection of the home you live in. Having a beautiful custom dock fish cleaning station is certainly not a necessity, but does it hurt?”