Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Fishing guide

Animal Crossing New Horizons Fish
Animal Crossing New Horizons Fish (Image credit: iMore)

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

Animal Crossing New Horizons Fishing Rod

Animal Crossing New Horizons Fishing Rod (Image credit: iMore)

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

Animal Crossing New Horizons Casting

Animal Crossing New Horizons Casting (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Caught

Animal Crossing New Horizons Caught (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Ichthyologist

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Ichthyologist (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Aquarium

Animal Crossing New Horizons Aquarium (Image credit: iMore)

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!

Animal Crossing New Horizons Trash Fishin

Animal Crossing New Horizons Trash Fishin (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Fish Bait

Animal Crossing New Horizons Fish Bait (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Football

Animal Crossing New Horizons Football (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Freshwater fish

Swipe to scroll horizontally
NameSeasonalityLocationActive Hours
BitterlingNovember - MarchRiverAll day
Pale ChubAll yearRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Crucian CarpAll yearRiverAll day
DaceAll yearRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
CarpAll yearPondAll day
KoiAll yearPond4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
GoldfishAll yearPondAll day
Pop-eyed GoldfishAll yearPond9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
Ranchu GoldfishAll yearPond9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
KillifishApril - AugustPondAll day
CrawfishApril - SeptemberPondAll day
Soft-shelled TurtleAugust - SeptemberRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Snapping TurtleAll yearRiver9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
TadpoleMarch - JulyPondAll day
FrogApril - AugustPondAll day
Freshwater GobyApril - AugustRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
LoachMarch - MayRiverAll day
CatfishMay - OctoberPond4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Giant SnakeheadJune - AugustPond9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
BluegillAll yearRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Yellow PerchOctober - MarchRiverAll day
Black BassAll yearRiverAll day
TilapiaJune - OctoberRiverAll day
PikeSeptember - DecemberRiverAll day
Pond SmeltDecember - FebruaryRiverAll day
SweetfishJuly - SeptemberRiverAll day
Cherry SalmonMarch - June, September - NovemberRiver (Clifftop)4 p.m. 9 a.m.
CharMarch - June, September - NovemberRiver (Clifftop)4 p.m. - 9 a.m. (Mar - Jun), All day (Sep - Nov)
Golden TroutMarch - May, September - NovemberRiver (Clifftop)4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
StringfishDecember - MarchRiver (Clifftop)4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
SalmonSeptemberRiver (Mouth)All day
King SalmonSeptemberRiver (Mouth)All day
Mitten CrabSeptember - NovemberRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
GuppyApril - NovemberRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Nibble FishMay - SeptemberRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
AngelfishMay - OctoberRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
BettaMay - OctoberRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Neon TetraApril - NovemberRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
RainbowfishMay - OctoberRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
PiranhaJune - SeptemberRiver9 a.m. - 4 p.m., 9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
ArowanaJune - SeptemberRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
DoradoJune - SeptemberRiver4 a.m. - 9 p.m.
GarJune - SeptemberPond4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
ArapaimaJune - SeptemberRiver4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Saddled BichirJune - SeptemberRiver9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
SturgeonSeptember - MarchRiver (Mouth)All day

Marine fish

Swipe to scroll horizontally
NameSeasonalityLocationActive Hours
Sea ButterflyJanuary - MarchSeaAll day
Sea HorseApril - NovemberSeaAll day
Clown FishApril - SeptemberSeaAll day
SurgeonfishApril - SeptemberSeaAll day
Butterfly FishApril - SeptemberSeaAll day
NapoleonfishJuly - AugustSea4 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Zebra TurkeyfishApril - NovemberSeaAll day
BlowfishNovember - FebruarySea9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
Puffer FishJuly - SeptemberSeaAll day
AnchovyAll yearSea4 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Horse MackerelAll yearSeaAll day
Barred KnifejawMarch - NovemberSeaAll day
Sea BassAll yearSeaAll day
Red SnapperAll yearSeaAll day
DabOctober - AprilSeaAll day
Olive FlounderAll yearSeaAll day
SquidDecember - AugustSeaAll day
Moray EelAugust - OctoberSeaAll day
Ribbon EelJune - OctoberSeaAll day
TunaNovember - AprilPierAll day
Blue MarlinJuly - September, November - AprilPierAll day
Giant TrevallyMay - OctoberPierAll day
Mahi-mahiMay - OctoberPierAll day
Ocean SunfishJuly - SeptemberSea4 a.m. - 9 p.m.
RayAugust - NovemberSea4 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Saw SharkJune - SeptemberSea4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Hammerhead SharkJune - SeptemberSea4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Great White SharkJune - SeptemberSea4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Whale SharkJune - SeptemberSeaAll day
SuckerfishJune - SeptemberSeaAll day
Football FishNovember - MarchSea4 p.m. - 9 a.m.
OarfishDecember - MaySeaAll day
BarreleyeAll yearSea9 p.m. - 4 a.m.
CoelacanthAll yearSea (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!

Samantha Nelson

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.