Animal Crossing New Horizons: Complete Fishing Guide and Top Tips

Your complete guide to fishing in Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH), including how to fish, where and when to catch each species, and some extra fishing tips.

Fishing is a
core part of the gameplay in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and is a rather fun
activity once you perfect the method.

With 80
species of fish to catch and file in the Critterpedia. You can use fish as
decorations in your home, sell them for Bells, or give them to Blathers to help
grow the museum.

So, here’s everything that you need to know about fishing in New Horizons, including how to fish, how to get bait, and the list of sharks, eels, turtles, and fish that you can catch in ACNH.

How to get a fishing rod in New Horizons

The Flimsy
Fishing Rod is one of the first tools that you learn to make in New Horizons.

After moving
to the island, setting up your tent, and going to sleep, you’ll be able to talk
to Tom Nook in Resident Services.

At this
point, Tom will offer you the workbench and will give you the recipe for a
Flimsy Fishing Rod.

Now that you
have the recipe, you can build a Flimsy Fishing Rod with five tree branches. If
your first fishing rod breaks, you can return to the workbench with five more
tree branches to craft another.

Or, you
could turn to Timmy, who also in Resident Services in the very early game.
Timmy runs the store, with the fishing rod being for sale for 400 Bells.

Now that you
have a rudimentary rod, you can approach any body of water on your island – be
it a river, lake, waterfall, or the sea – and try to catch some fish.

How to Catch Fish in Animal Crossing

Fishing is
very easy in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, once you get the hang of it, but
one hasty press of the button could result in a potentially rare fish swimming

So, here’s a
step-by-step guide on how to fish in Animal Crossing:

  • Equip the fishing rod by going into your inventory (X) and selecting to Hold the item (A).
    • Or, you can cycle through your tools until you get to the fishing rod by pressing Left or Right.
  • You will need to make sure to never use the sprint button (hold B) around water because you’ll scare the fish away. Always approach the water at regular moving speed.
  • Stand near water, not necessarily right on the edge of a bank, and then press A to cast your line.
    • Whenever you cast the line, it casts to the same distance. So, standing a bit further back from the water’s edge will help you to cast the lure in front of fish that are swimming by the bank.
  • When your lure is in the water, you can press A again to reel in your line and cast again (A).
  • To catch a fish with the fishing rod in New Horizons, you’ll want to cast your lure close to the fish’s head or at least in front of the fish.
    • The head of the fish is usually the larger, more spherical part of the silhouette.
  • When your lure is in the water, you have to wait for the fish to come to the lure.
  • Most of the time, the fish won’t hook on immediately: it will nibble the lure.
    • If you press A again before the fish takes the bait, the fish will swim away.
  • You have to watch and wait for the fish to pull the lure underwater. When this happens, press A to hook the fish, and then continue to press the A button as much as you can to battle the fish to shore.

Be sure to
try out all of the different bodies of water on and around your island as
different aquatic creatures live in different habitats.

How to make Fish Bait in New Horizons

Fish Bait is
a very useful item if you want to farm fish from a preferred spot. To learn how
to make the item, you’ll need a Shovel.

Early in the
game, you’ll be asked to put down a tent for Blathers, who’s interested in the
local fauna. The day after you’ve set-up Blathers’ tent, the owl museum curator
will move to your island.

Speak to Blathers as soon as you can as they give you the crafting recipe for a Flimsy Shovel and the Vaulting Pole – which allows you to cross rivers.

Once you’ve
crafted a Shovel, you’ll want to walk along the beaches in search of a spurt of
water coming up from the sand, as shown below:

Even if the
water spurt disappears, use your shovel (by pressing A) where it was coming
from and around that area until you dig up a manila clam. After you’ve dug it
up, your Animal Crossing character will have an idea for a DIY recipe.

Return to a
workbench – either your own or Tom Nook’s workbench – find the Fish Bait recipe
(found in the ‘Other’ section) and use the manila clam to craft some Fish Bait.

Fish Bait is
very easy to use: once you’ve walked to the place where you’d like to fish, go
into your inventory (X) and select to use the Fish Bait.

You’ll need to
do this right next to the water, but once you’ve used the Fish Bait, a fish
will suddenly appear for you to catch.

Understanding fish shadows in New Horizons

The fish
shadows, or rather, the fish silhouettes, will appear in a very similar shape
early in the game but will vary in size.

While the
size of the silhouette does give you some hint as to the potential species –
with shadow sizes appearing in the form of extra-large, large, medium, small,
and extra-small – a bigger shadow doesn’t necessarily indicate a more valuable

There are
also some other fish shadow shapes in New Horizons. Those with a rounded front
leading to a triangular tail are mostly species of standard fish, but there are
also skinny, snake-like silhouettes, which are eels.

Crossing: New Horizons also features sharks. You can catch sharks in the ocean,
with the shark shadow being identified by the presence of a fin on the fish

Where you’re
fishing, the hemisphere that you’re on, the season, and the time of day are all
potential indicators of what fish you can see swimming around.

Best time to catch fish, best time to catch sharks in ACNH

As you’ll
see below, some fish and sharks have specific time windows during which they’ll
appear in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The time windows tend to involve the fish either appearing All Day, between the hours of 4am and 9pm, and between the hours of 9pm and 4am. So, if you’ve been fishing for a while and have stopped catching new species, the best time to fish again would be within the next time window – after 4am or after 9pm.

How to catch a shark in ACNH

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, anyone can catch a shark in the exact same way that you’d catch any other fish, as detailed above.

There are
some key differences with sharks, though, with the main aspect being that the
lure won’t be held down for as long before the shark disappears. So, when you’re
fishing for a shark, you’ll need to be very quick to press A if you want to
reel one onto the shore.

You can tell
if the fish in the ocean is a shark by looking at the black silhouette. If it
looks like a regular fish shadow, but with a fin, it’s going to be a shark on
the line.

The only
aspects which dictate the best way to catch sharks in New Horizons are the time
of day and season according to your hemisphere.

You can catch four sharks in Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Hammerhead Shark, Great White Shark, Saw Shark, Whale Shark – so, here’s a cut-out from the table below to help you catch sharks in the new Animal Crossing game:

Shark Species Location N. Hemisphere Seasonality S. Hemisphere Seasonality Time
Great White Shark Ocean June-September December-March 4pm-9am
Hammerhead Shark Ocean June-September December-March All Day
Saw Shark Ocean June-September December-March 4pm-9am
Whale Shark Ocean June-September December-March All Day

If you’re looking for a certain fish to catch but can’t find it anywhere, it might be down to the season or the location: the table below can help with finding out the best times to catch fish, sharks, and other aquatic creatures in New Horizons.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons aquatic creatures fishing list

Whenever you
catch a fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and give it to Blathers to
examine and put in the museum, you’ll learn all of the key details about the
fish (as you can see above).

So, you can
always go back into your NookPhone (ZL) and consult the Critterpedia to find
where and when to catch the aquatic creature again.

There are 80 species of fish to catch whether you’re in the Northern Hemisphere or Southern Hemisphere, but the seasonality of most fish is different between the regions.

Aquatic Creature Location N. Hemisphere Seasonality S. Hemisphere Seasonality Time
Black Bass River All Year All Year All Day
Bluegill River All Year All Year 9am-4pm
Carp River All Year All Year All Day
River All Year All Year All Day
Dace River All Year All Year 4pm-9am
River All Year All Year 4pm-9am
River All Year All Year 9am-4pm
Angelfish River May-October November-April 4pm-9am
Arapaima River June-September December-March 1am-9am
Arowana River June-September December-March 4pm-9am
Betta River May-October November-April 9am-4pm
Bitterling River November-March May-September All Day
Char River March-June
Dorado River June-September December-March 4am-9pm
Guppy River April-November October-May 9am-4pm
Loach River March-May September-November All Day
River September-November March-May 4pm-9am
Neon Tetra River April-November October-May 4am-4pm
River May-September November-March 9am-4pm
Pike River September-December March-June All Day
Piranha River June-September December-March 9am-4pm
River December-February June-August All Day
River May-October November-April 9am-4pm
River December-September June-March 9pm-4am
River April-October October-April 9pm-4am
River August-September February-March 4pm-9am
Sweetfish River July-September January-March All Day
Tilapia River June-October December-April All Day
River October-March April-September All Day
Stringfish River
December-March Jun-September 4pm-9am
All Day
Salmon River
September March All Day
September March All Day
Sturgeon River
September-March March-September All Day
Goldfish Pond All Year All Year All Day
Pond All Year All Year 9am-4pm
Pond All Year All Year 9am-4pm
Koi Pond All Year All Year 4pm-9am
Killifish Pond All Year All Year 9am-4pm
Catfish Pond May-October November-April 4pm-9am
Gar Pond July-October January-April 4pm-9am
Pond June-September December-March 9am-4pm
Crawfish Pond April-September October-March All Day
Tadpole Pond March-July September-January All Day
Frog Pond May-August November-February All Day
Anchovy Ocean All Year All Year 4am-9pm
Barreleye Ocean All Year All Year 9pm-4am
Ocean All Year All Year All Day
Ocean All Year All Year All Day
Ocean All Year All Year All Day
Sea Bass Ocean All Year All Year All Day
Ocean March-November September-May All Day
Blowfish Ocean November-February May-August 9pm-4am
Butterfly Fish Ocean April-September October-March All Day
Clownfish Ocean April-September October-March All Day
Dab Ocean October-April April-October All Day
Ocean November-March May-September 4pm-9am
Moray Eel Ocean August-October February-April All Day
Napoleonfish Ocean July-December January-June 4am-9pm
Oarfish Ocean December-May June-November All Day
Ocean July-September January-March 4am-9pm
Puffer Fish Ocean July-September January-March All Day
Ray Ocean August-November February-May 4am-9pm
Ribbon Eel Ocean July-October January-April All Day
Ocean December-March June-September All Day
Seahorse Ocean April-November October-May All Day
Squid Ocean December-August June-February All Day
Suckerfish Ocean June-September December-March All Day
Surgeonfish Ocean April-September October-March All Day
Ocean April-May
All Day
White Shark
Ocean June-September December-March 4pm-9am
Ocean June-September December-March All Day
Saw Shark Ocean June-September December-March 4pm-9am
Whale Shark Ocean June-September December-March All Day
Coelacanth Ocean All Year All Year All Day
Pier November-April
All Day
Tuna Pier November-April May-October All Day
Mahi-Mahi Pier May-October November-April All Day
Pier May-October November-April All Day

New Horizons Fishing Tips

To increase
your chances of catching the fish that you want in Animal Crossing, be sure to
take these New Horizons fishing top tips on board.

Never sprint when trying to fish

In Animal
Crossing: New Horizons, you can sprint as well as just run around at the normal
pace. However, if you want to go fishing, never sprint.

If you
sprint by the water’s edge, you will scare all of the fish away. So, it’s best
to keep your thumb off of the sprint button (hold B) whenever you want to go

Use bait if there aren’t any fish around

As detailed
above, using bait is a great way to allow you to keep fishing in one place so
that you can get the aquatic creature that you’re after from that habitat.

So, make
sure that whenever you see the water spurt on the beach, you dig up the manila
clam, craft it into Fish Bait, and take as much of it as you can on your
fishing trip.

Location can be key for fishing

As you would
assume, and probably saw in the table above, the habitat makes a big difference
to what fish you can catch – but it can be much more specific than just ocean
or river habitats.

Some have
found that certain fish can only be caught in set weather conditions, such as
when it’s raining, as well as the short wooden pier on your island being the only
way to catch some other fish species.

So, be sure
to fish at any body of water that you can find, using Fish Bait to draw out the
local aquatic creatures.

Continue to progress in the story

While the
Flimsy Fishing Rod does the job, be sure to keep progressing in the story,
doing jobs for Blathers and the other residents, so that you can unlock better

Always take two rods

You’ll find
that, especially in the beginning, your fishing rod will break at the worst
time. To make sure that you can capitalise on any fish silhouette, always take
a second rod.

Early on, you should aim to fish until one fishing rod breaks and then head back to your house. This way, if you see another potential catch on the way back, you still have a rod to capitalise on the opportunity.

If a fish is out of season, change the season

As Animal
Crossing: New Horizons progresses in real-time, many players look for ways to
time travel.

As sleeping
doesn’t work for this, outside of some storyline objectives, the best way to
skip to the next day is to change the settings on your Switch.

To time
travel in New Horizons, follow the steps below:

  • Save your Animal Crossing: New Horizons game, press the ‘Home’ button to return to the Nintendo Switch home screen.
  • Press X on the Animal Crossing: New Horizons tile and close the game.
  • Go to the bottom bar and over to System Settings, and then press A to enter. 
  • In System Settings, scroll all the way down the left-hand side to the System option, and then press A.
  • Within the System menu, select Date and Time by hovering over the option and pressing A.
  • Here, you’ll see that the option to Synchronise Clock via Internet is switched to On. Press A here to unlock the option to change the Date and Time setting. If you’re offline, you can go down to Date and Time straight away.
  • Go down to the Date and Time option and change the settings to the time and month of your choice, enabling you to time travel in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. 
  • Once you’ve changed the date, back out of the settings menus, get back into the game, and go fishing.

That’s pretty much everything that you need to know about fishing in New Horizons; see if you can catch all 80 species of Animal Crossing’s aquatic creatures.

Looking for more Animal Crossing New Horizons Guides?

Animal Crossing New Horizons: How to Time Travel, Skip Days, and Change the Season

Animal Crossing New Horizons: Complete Controls Guide and Tips

Animal Crossing New Horizons: How to Cure a Wasp Sting and Make Medicine

Animal Crossing New Horizons: Complete Iron Nuggets Guide (How to Farm Iron Nuggets and Where to Find Them)

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