Fishing is one of the major activities you can do on your deserted island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but it's not the most intuitive activity. Tom Nook encourages you to start doing it without actually explaining how. Even when you learn the basic mechanisms, there are plenty of hidden tricks to discover. This guide should help make fishing as relaxing as possible.
How to get a fishing rod
Stop by the DIY Workshop at Resident Services, and you'll automatically unlock the DIY recipe for a Flimsy Fishing Rod, which you can craft with five tree branches. All flimsy tools break after 30 uses, so you'll need to craft another one or buy one from Timmy at resident services for 400 Bells.
However, If you buy the Pretty Good Tools Recipes from the Nook Stop terminal for 3,000 Nook Miles, you'll gain the recipe for a Fishing Rod. This tool is more durable but requires both the flimsy fishing rod and an iron nugget to craft. Iron nuggets are fairly rare, and you'll need 30 of them early in the game to unlock your island's shop, so I recommend just putting up with the flimsy version for a while.
How to fish
You can find fish in ponds, rivers, and oceans, and they'll take the form of fish-shaped shadows. Smaller fish have small shadows, larger fish have big shadows, and eels have long, skinny shadows. Make sure to cast your line in front of their faces to attract their attention. Fish will periodically swim forward or change directions, so you might need to recast if they move out of position.
When holding the fishing rod, press A to cast a line into any nearby body of water, though the cast may not work if you're not facing in the proper direction.
Once a fish notices your lure, it will swim forward and take a nibble. Don't pull the line in yet! Wait for it to pull the lure underwater and then press and hold down A. If you got the timing right, the fish will swim around in circles stirring up the water while your line goes taught. At the end of this animation, you'll reel it in and learn what you caught.
Finding new fish and filling in your Critterpedia will help you progress in the Island Ichthyologist Nook Miles task, while any catch will count toward the Angling for Perfection! challenge. You can also earn Nook Miles through the Cast Master challenge, which requires catching 10 fish in a row without one getting away.
What to do with fish?
At the start of the game, Tom Nook is interested in learning about the critters that live on the island and will ask you to gather five unique bugs or fish and bring them to him at Resident Services. Once you do that, he'll tell you that the scholarly owl Blathers wants to set up a museum on your island. You pick a spot for him to pitch a tent and Blathers will move in the next day. Blathers will ask for 15 more unique critters or fossils, and once he's got them, he'll start the two-day process of constructing his museum.
The museum is a gorgeous space that's way bigger on the inside than the outside. All the fish, bugs, and fossils you've collected and donated will be impressively displayed there. You can browse the exhibits and view plaques identifying each specimen and when you donated it. Expect plenty of empty tanks at first with plaques urging you to make more donations.
Once the museum is complete, you'll be able to donate critters and fossils to Blathers in bulk rather than giving him things one at a time. Blathers is only interested in taking one of each type of fish, though some tanks will display several of the same species swimming around anyways. You can view a fish in your Critterpedia to see if you've already donated it. Blathers will give you back anything he doesn't need, and you can display the extras in tanks in your home or sell them to Timmy.
Many of the Nook Miles+ tasks involve fishing, so look out for those so you can use your time efficiently and earn Miles while you fish.
That's not a fish!
Occasionally when you reel in a fish, you'll find that you've actually caught something else like a rock, an old boot, or a can. Don't be sad, though! Everything in Animal Crossing has a use, and this junk is no exception. The Trash Fishin' Nook Miles challenge will reward you once you've fished up three pieces of trash. Many of the junk items also inspire fun DIY recipes like a lovely succulent plant you can make by putting some weeds in that empty can.
How to find fish
Fish shadows come in different shapes and sizes, so you can guess what you're fishing for, but you won't know for sure until you get it. If you want fish to come to you, try using some fish bait. Wander the beach or river banks until you see little bubbles coming out of the sand, and then grab your shovel and dig. You'll pull out a manila clam and get inspiration for a DIY recipe that will turn it into fish bait. Once you've made a bag of bait, just sprinkle it by a body of water, and a fish will spawn! Remember that fish will only spawn with bait four times in the same spot. After that, you'll have to sprinkle the bait in a different spot of water.
The type of fish that appear on your island depends on the time of day and month, with different fish appearing at different times based on whether you're in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. The hours when each type of fish is active will change with the season. Rainy weather is the only time to catch some fish.
There are 80 fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the table below shows the fish that can be found in the Northern Hemisphere, what months they spawn in, and what time of day you can catch them.
|Bitterling||November - March||River||All day|
|Pale Chub||All year||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Crucian Carp||All year||River||All day|
|Dace||All year||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Carp||All year||Pond||All day|
|Koi||All year||Pond||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Goldfish||All year||Pond||All day|
|Pop-eyed Goldfish||All year||Pond||9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Ranchu Goldfish||All year||Pond||9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Killifish||April - August||Pond||All day|
|Crawfish||April - September||Pond||All day|
|Soft-shelled Turtle||August - September||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Snapping Turtle||All year||River||9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Tadpole||March - July||Pond||All day|
|Frog||April - August||Pond||All day|
|Freshwater Goby||April - August||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Loach||March - May||River||All day|
|Catfish||May - October||Pond||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Giant Snakehead||June - August||Pond||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Bluegill||All year||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Yellow Perch||October - March||River||All day|
|Black Bass||All year||River||All day|
|Tilapia||June - October||River||All day|
|Pike||September - December||River||All day|
|Pond Smelt||December - February||River||All day|
|Sweetfish||July - September||River||All day|
|Cherry Salmon||March - June, September - November||River (Clifftop)||4 p.m. 9 a.m.|
|Char||March - June, September - November||River (Clifftop)||4 p.m. - 9 a.m. (Mar - Jun), All day (Sep - Nov)|
|Golden Trout||March - May, September - November||River (Clifftop)||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Stringfish||December - March||River (Clifftop)||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Salmon||September||River (Mouth)||All day|
|King Salmon||September||River (Mouth)||All day|
|Mitten Crab||September - November||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Guppy||April - November||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Nibble Fish||May - September||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Angelfish||May - October||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Betta||May - October||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Neon Tetra||April - November||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Rainbowfish||May - October||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m.|
|Piranha||June - September||River||9 a.m. - 4 p.m., 9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Arowana||June - September||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Dorado||June - September||River||4 a.m. - 9 p.m.|
|Gar||June - September||Pond||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Arapaima||June - September||River||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Saddled Bichir||June - September||River||9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Sturgeon||September - March||River (Mouth)||All day|
|Sea Butterfly||January - March||Sea||All day|
|Sea Horse||April - November||Sea||All day|
|Clown Fish||April - September||Sea||All day|
|Surgeonfish||April - September||Sea||All day|
|Butterfly Fish||April - September||Sea||All day|
|Napoleonfish||July - August||Sea||4 a.m. - 9 p.m.|
|Zebra Turkeyfish||April - November||Sea||All day|
|Blowfish||November - February||Sea||9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Puffer Fish||July - September||Sea||All day|
|Anchovy||All year||Sea||4 a.m. - 9 p.m.|
|Horse Mackerel||All year||Sea||All day|
|Barred Knifejaw||March - November||Sea||All day|
|Sea Bass||All year||Sea||All day|
|Red Snapper||All year||Sea||All day|
|Dab||October - April||Sea||All day|
|Olive Flounder||All year||Sea||All day|
|Squid||December - August||Sea||All day|
|Moray Eel||August - October||Sea||All day|
|Ribbon Eel||June - October||Sea||All day|
|Tuna||November - April||Pier||All day|
|Blue Marlin||July - September, November - April||Pier||All day|
|Giant Trevally||May - October||Pier||All day|
|Mahi-mahi||May - October||Pier||All day|
|Ocean Sunfish||July - September||Sea||4 a.m. - 9 p.m.|
|Ray||August - November||Sea||4 a.m. - 9 p.m.|
|Saw Shark||June - September||Sea||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Hammerhead Shark||June - September||Sea||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Great White Shark||June - September||Sea||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Whale Shark||June - September||Sea||All day|
|Suckerfish||June - September||Sea||All day|
|Football Fish||November - March||Sea||4 p.m. - 9 a.m.|
|Oarfish||December - May||Sea||All day|
|Barreleye||All year||Sea||9 p.m. - 4 a.m.|
|Coelacanth||All year||Sea (Rain)||All day|
It ain't much, but it's honest work
While not all the creatures listed above can be considered "fish," like crabs for example, they're all lumped into one big fishy group in the game. Still, being able to learn about new sea creatures and where they live is something that makes this game one of the best games you can play on the Nintendo Switch. Get out there and catch a whopper!
Just chillaxing in paradise
Embark on a new journey with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Move in on a deserted island, make friends with the locals, and decorate your entire town! Curate your experience and live the way YOU want.
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Samantha Nelson writes about gaming and electronics for iMore, Windows Central and Android Central while also covering nerd culture for publications including IGN and Polygon. She loves superheroes, RPGs, cooking, and spending time outside with her dog. You can follow her on Twitter @samanthanelson1.