Clean your catch

Customize a portable fish cleaning station just for your needs

The idea for a fish and game cleaning station sprang from pure necessity.

Growing up, Dad said that if I wanted to bring home fish and game to eat, I needed to learn how to clean it. So he taught me. As we both grew older, cleaning the catch from our many adventures became primarily my job.

I used to dig a hole in the backyard to bury the heads, entrails and other parts we didn’t eat. I squatted over the hole to clean our catch on a simple cutting board. Sometimes, I used the top of an ice chest, but I still had to squat down or kneel. As I got older, kneeling got rougher on my knees. I felt it would be beneficial and less painful to stand up for cleaning chores.

I wanted something large, rugged and mobile that could handle a variety of cleaning jobs that I could do from a very ergonomic standing position. Being in the military, I also wanted something that I could move around, place where I wanted and take with me when I moved. I also wanted access to water so I could wash the meat and not risk dropping it on the way to the kitchen. Now that I’m married, my wife appreciates not messing up her kitchen too!

I looked around at various large sporting goods and building supply stores and saw some good ideas, but none really fit all my needs.

Just my size

Therefore, I decided to fabricate exactly what I wanted to fit a guy my size. For the design, I borrowed ideas from several different cleaning tables that I saw in the stores and added my own unique touches to build a customized ergonomic cleaning station.

First, I planned what materials I would need. For the basic construction, I used two-by-fours and bought a cheap plastic sink. The materials probably cost about $250. A person could save a little money by obtaining an old sink that someone throws out when remodeling a house. For a backyard fish and game cleaning station, it doesn’t need to be new or fancy.

Daniel J. Felsher prepares to fillet a redfish using his backyard custom-made cleaning station. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

On one side, I added a big cutting board for my fish. I attached a clamp to the board to hold slimy fish by the tail as I cut on them. On the other side, I put a stout chopping block for larger, tougher game. I use this for anything too big or too tough for a fillet knife.

For the sink, I built a box around it out of two-by-fours. The sink free-floats in the table so I can lift it out and clean it as necessary. Then, I built the legs and beefed up the chopping board side. I had to add a couple two-by-fours to the cutting board side so the board would fit.

The hardest part of building the cleaning station was the plumbing. I couldn’t find anything specific to my needs, so I had to make everything out of PVC pipe and flexible 3/4-inch rubber hose. The sink has a connection for a water hose, but it’s not permanently hooked up to running water. When I need water, I connect the garden hose to the sink and rinse everything off. It’s a lot less messy than cleaning game elsewhere, like on the patio deck.

The sink has an opening at the bottom so water runs directly onto the ground. If someone didn’t want to make a mess, that person could make a drain for the sink. I just didn’t want to go through all that trouble. Also, someone could put a bucket or a garbage can lined with a trash bag under the hole to catch all the scraps. For me, it was easier to mount a little hook on the cutting board side where I can hang a bucket. I toss anything I don’t want into the bucket for burial later.

Solid construction

It’s a very solid piece of construction that weighs about 200 pounds. With it that heavy, I didn’t want to carry it so I put casters on the four legs. If I build another one, I wouldn’t use casters. Casters turn independently, but that becomes inconvenient when trying to maneuver it around.

Instead, I would get a pair of large wheels, like off a wheelbarrow or the back of a lawnmower. I would put those large wheels on one side and two casters on the other side. Then, I could move it around like an outdoor grill. If I move out of this house, I can take the cleaning station with me. I can place the station wherever I like in my new yard, hook it up to a garden house, stand up and clean game or fish. Afterwards, my back and my knees are perfectly fine.

From the time I unloaded the materials until I was ready to clean fish or game, I worked about five hours on it one day. I think anyone could build such a cleaning station for themselves. I built mine specifically for my size and my needs. Other people might want to build theirs slightly different to customize it for themselves.

Felsher constructed this cleaning station from sturdy wood designed with one side for cleaning fish and the other side for cleaning game. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

One of the things I learned, and it’s an old lesson, is to definitely measure twice and cut once. Always cut a little less off than necessary and then fine-tune it from there.

If you have any questions about making your own home fish and game cleaning station, email

What you’ll need

  • 1 sink (plastic is best) with faucet and spout
  • 1 large cutting board 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 caster wheels or two large wheels and two casters (optional)
  • 1 spring-loaded metal clamp
  • 12 pressure-treated 2x4x8s
  • 5 feet of 1-inch diameter PVC pipe
  • 1 PVC adapter for a garden hose
  • 1 can PVC glue
  • 2 feet of 3/4-inch flexible rubber hose
  • 1 tube clear silicone
  • 1 threaded adapter for flexible hose
  • 1 PVC to adapter for flexible hose
  • 3 conduit clamps
  • 2 hose clamps (3/4-inch flexible hose)
  • 5 pounds of 2.5-inch wood screws
  • 1 pound of 1-inch wood screws

Step-by-step instructions

Here are simple, step-by-step instructions you can follow:

  1. Build a frame around the base of the sink out of 2x4s. Make sure not to build the frame too tight. The sink should be able to slide in and out of the frame easily.
  2. Screw in two 2x4s each 60 inches in length to the front and back side of the sink frame. Attach a 2×4 to the sides, making a bigger frame.
  3. Attach the legs of the station to each corner of the frame. (The size is up to the individual.) For stability, attach 2x4s to the inside of each leg, making braces. If desired, attach the casters or wheels.
  4. On one side of the frame (builder chooses side) attach the large cutting board. Use additional 2x4s as needed to ensure the cutting board fits correctly. Using the 1-inch screws, secure each corner of the cutting board. Now, attach the metal clamp to the cutting board on the side closest to the sink. This will serve as a fish holder.
  5. On the side opposite of the cutting board, attach 2x4s running width ways on the inside of the frame. After braces are complete, screw in 2x4s to the top the frame and braces. This serves as a chopping block.
  6. Assemble the PVC fittings starting with the garden hose attachment. Glue the garden hose attachment to the end of the pipe. Measure out distance to under the sink. Cut the pipe, and glue on PVC to flexible hose adapter. It might be necessary to secure pipe to frame or braces. If so, secure with conduit clamps.
  7. Bore a hole in backside of the frame under where the water hookup is. Line threads of sink with Teflon tape and secure threaded to flexible hose adapter to sink. Measure out distance between two adapters and cut flexible hose to size. Line brass fittings with clear silicone, using care not to plug up the opening, and attach flexible hose to both pipe and sink. Let silicone and glue completely dry before running any water through fish and game cleaning station.

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About Daniel Felsher 1 Article
Daniel J. Felsher began hunting and fishing at a very early age. Always handy with tools, Daniel now serves on active duty with the U.S. Navy as an aircraft engine mechanic.

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