Fish can be found in oceans, lakes, rivers, and certain underground locations. Most fish can be caught with a fishing pole (see fishing) but some require crab pots to catch them. Some fish only spawn at certain times of the day or during certain seasons while others only appear during certain weather. Upon catching them, the name of the fish and its length are displayed. Players can keep track of how many fish they've caught and their record lengths in their Collections menu. Fish can be used as ingredients in cooking and are required to restore the Fish Tank in the Community Center.
While players can fish near any body of water, some places have lower rates of success. These areas are more likely to produce trash, most of which can be turned into useful items using the Recycling Machine, which unlocks at fishing level 4.
Every single fish can always be caught regardless of weather, time, or season using Magic Bait.
Whenever a fish is hooked, a minigame which allows the player to catch it will be triggered. In this minigame, a fish-like icon will move up and down inside a vertical space. The player controls a green bar, which will ascend while the left mouse button is pressed and will drop while it's not. The green bar will bounce against the boundaries of the minigame unless a Lead Bobber is equipped.
A catch meter will increase while the fish is kept inside the green area, and will decrease while it's not. Once the catch meter is fulfilled, the fish will be caught. The fish escapes if the meter drops empty.
If the player catches a fish without letting it slip out the green area once, they will accomplish a "perfect" catch (the word "perfect" will be displayed above the minigame when the fish is caught). This increases the fish quality provided the fish was at least silver quality initially: silver quality fish become gold quality, and gold quality fish become iridium quality.
It's only possible to know what fish was hooked after it's caught, as the minigame will show no information about the specimen. The player can, however, deduce this by observing its behavior and knowing the circumstances the fish was hooked under, such as season, time, weather, and location. The only exception to this is with Legendary fish, which can be seen wearing an orange crown in the fishing minigame.
There are 5 types of fish in the mini-game:
Mixed: These fish use the basic movement pattern.
Smooth: These fish have a more steady movement pattern.
Sinker: These fish have a faster downwards acceleration.
Floater: These fish have a faster upwards acceleration.
Dart: These fish move more random with a [2 x difficulty]% higher possible amplitude in both directions, moving erratically up and down the fishing bar.
These fish can only be caught in the submarine ride at the Night Market during Winter 15-17, or by using Magic Bait in the South-western corner of the beach. They can be caught during any weather, and at any time while the market is open (5pm – 2am).
There are five fish in the game classified as "legendary". These fish are caught in specific places and have a high difficulty. When reeling them in, these fish are shown wearing a crown. Legendary fish can only be caught once per save file, or once per player in Multiplayer.
The high difficulty of these fish makes catching them challenging. Higher fishing skills than required just to hook the fish may be necessary, especially from food bonuses (e.g., from Seafoam Pudding). Having the Iridium Rod and using a Tackle such as the Trap Bobber or Cork Bobber can also help. Ultimately, catching these fish can depend more on luck than on good reactions. Simply try again and again until the fish doesn't move too fiercely.
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There are five legendary fish II that can be caught during the Extended FamilyQi's Challenge. They are caught in the same locations and have the same difficulties as the older generation of fish. However, the fishing bar is not distinctly marked as it is with the original legendary fish. In addition, unlike the original legendary fish, it is possible to catch these fish more than once. It is impossible to catch them when the quest is not active. While this quest is active, it is not possible to catch the original legendary fish; all of the casts that would be for the original legendary fish will transfer over to these fish instead. This means that the percent chances of hooking these fish are the same as for the original legendaries. Catching these fish are not required to complete the Master Angler achievement.
Fish caught in crab pots are always normal quality, and all Crab Pot fish are worth 5 fishing XP. Only Foraged fish can be of normal, silver, gold, or iridium quality and are affected by the Botanist profession bonus. Some are only catchable using a baited Crab Pot. Baiting the rewarded crab pots, however, is only possible by reaching fishing level 2, viewing Linus' 4-Heart cutscene, or acquiring Bait randomly from a fishing treasure chest.
While none of these items can be eaten directly (unlike rod-caught fish), all crab pot fish can be used in Cooking recipes that require a "fish" and some have specific recipes of their own. Most catch of normal quality except Crab, Lobster, and Crayfish is worth less than 75g, making it more profitable to turn them into Sashimi rather than to sell these items. (This changes with the Fisher and Angler Professions, as well as the quality of foraged items.)
Constantly filters water to find food. In the process, it removes dangerous toxins from the environment.
There are some non-junk items players can reel in while fishing. They do not trigger the fishing mini-game, but are instead immediately picked up. Each gives 3 Fishing XP when caught and is always standard quality.
Below is a quick reference table showing when it is profitable to turn fish into Sashimi based on the quality of the fish. Fish that never make a profit when turned into Sashimi are not listed (Crab, Crayfish, Lobster, Legendary Fish, etc.). Fish whose sell price is 75g, the same as Sashimi, are not listed.
↑Crab pot contents are determined by CrabPot::DayUpdate. For mariners, there is no chance of junk, and all creatures are equally likely. For non-mariners, there is a 20% chance of junk, then each creature is checked sequentially using the chances specified in Fish.xnb. One result of this algorithm is that the actual chance of finding a given creature is smaller than the value in the input file, because it can only be found if junk items and all previous creatures failed their tests.
↑Clams are not categorized as Fish by the game. Therefore they cannot be used in Fish recipes, do not benefit from Fishing price bonuses, do not show up in the Fish section of the collection tab, and do not count towards the four fishing Achievements.
↑In the game data (ObjectInformation.xnb) the type assigned to Seaweed and Algae is "Fish", but it is not assigned the Fish category (-4). The label displayed in-game and most uses are controlled by the category.