Fishing Guide – Getting Started

This chapter contains information for the beginner. If you’ve never picked up a fishing pole in your life, or have only just started fishing, this chapter is for you. In this chapter:

“If you ask me, the best part about fishing is its slow pace. It gives one time to think, to reflect on past events and to plan for future ones. Oh, and it’s also a great excuse to drink. Heavily.” – Nat Pagle

Why Fish?

Fishing is not an essential professional skill. Many citizens of Azeroth lead happy and forfilled lives without ever catching a fish. But there are plenty of good reasons to fish. Here is a summary:

  • It is classed as a secondary profession. This means learning to fish does not limit what other professions you may learn.
  • It can be relaxing. It gives space to think or socialise between adventures or battles.
  • It is a good source of food, including food that gives “buffs” ((bonuses to attributes)).
  • It can provide a modest income for little risk.
  • It complements other professions, for example:
    • Cooking – most fish can be cooked.
    • Alchemy – some reagents can only be gained by fishing.
    • Tailoring – bolts of cloth can sometimes be recovered while fishing.
    • Leatherworking – leather can sometimes be recovered while fishing.
  • It complements certain career classes:
    • Hunters – fish are a plentiful source of pet food.
    • Rogues – an occasional source of locked boxes to practice lock-picking skills on.
  • It opens up a small number of additional quests.

In spite of these benefits, the main requirement for enjoying fishing is patience. Some people have patience, and some do not…

Want to learn? Great. Let’s get you fishing straight away.

Learning to Fish: Your First Catch

To start fishing you must have reached at least level 5, and have at least 1 Silver 23 Copper spare cash. Now simply follow the seven steps below:

  1. Find a Fishing Trainer. Every capital city (such as Stormwind) has one, but there are some in other zones. These people are found near water, where you might expect them. If you have trouble finding a trainer, ask a guard for directions. Learn the Apprentice Fishing skill from the trainer. This will cost 1 silver (assuming no reputation or rank related reductions).
  2. You will also need to buy a fishing pole. A basic Fishing Pole can be purchased from most Fishing Suppliers or Trade Suppliers. You will normally find a fishing supplier close to a fishing trainer. A basic pole will cost you 23 Copper (assuming no reputation or rank related reductions). More advanced poles may be available. These are discussed in detail below. You only need the most basic Fishing Pole to get started.
  3. Now travel to a starting zone, such as Elwynn Forest or Mulgore. Stand next to a patch of water (lake, river or open sea), with a clear view of the water in front of you. Your feet must be on dry land – you cannot be swimming or sitting. It helps if you are safely away from enemies, so you are not engaged in combat while fishing. It is also helpful to be able to hear splashes in the water, so don’t stand next to something noisy like a waterfall.
  4. Equip your new fishing pole in your main hand. Now open your Spellbook and find the fishing skill. This will allow you to cast a line into the water. ((Click the fishing icon. I strongly recommend you drag the fishing skill icon onto the action bar, which will allow you to re-cast quickly using a hot-key.))
  5. If your cast is successful, you will see a bobber appear in the water. If your cast did not land in fishable water ((and you got a message to say so)), try and find a wider area of water, or adjust where you are standing to face more water. If you cannot cast a line ((you received a message telling you your skill was not high enough)), you must travel to easier waters. I strongly suggest you learn in a starting zone.
  6. Now wait for the bobber to splash. If the line fades before the bobber splashes ((the progress bar runs out)), simply re-cast. About one cast in twenty casts will not splash – no fish bite. Nothing you can do except re-cast.
  7. As soon as the bobber splashes, reel your fish in ((right-click once on the bobber)). Finally, transfer the fish to your inventory: Congratulations – your first fish! ((If you hold down shift while clicking on the bobber, your catch will go straight into your inventory. Alternatively, select “auto-loot” on the interface options screen.)) If there was nothing on your hook ((you received a message to say so)), you reeled in at the wrong time: Either too late or too early. If “your fish got away” ((again, a specific message)), either you were unlucky, or you are fishing in an area which is too difficult for you to catch everything. Some fish will get away until your skill improves, but you will catch most in starting zones.

An Introduction to Skill and Locations

Like other professions, your skill in fishing is expressed as a number. Skill is 1 when you first train, but you can improve this to 300. You improve your fishing by successfully catching something.

The only factor that determines skill is the number of successful catches. It doesn’t matter where or when or what you fish, so long as you catch something.

For about your first 90 catches each catch will increase your skill by one. As you become more advanced it will take more and more catches to advance another point. The table below shows the approximate number of successful catches required to increase your fishing skill by a point. It shows two different estimates – one by Noressa (as quoted by Highlander) and one by Ardeaem/Tedeum. The process is random: The number of catches per skill increase is not constant. Use the table as a guide only. Some people have told me that the more intelligent the individual, the faster their skill will rise. I have not seen any evidence for this, and I have compared a highly intelligent gnome with a somewhat less intelligent dwarf.

Number of Successful Catches Required to Gain a Point of SkillCurrent Fishing Skill (Noressa/Highlander)Current Fishing Skill (Ardeaem/Tedeum)

Why improve skill?

So why develop your fishing skills? There is one reason: Higher skill is required to fish in areas with “better” fish.

That’s all. Higher fishing skill does not specifically:

  • make you fish quicker,
  • reduce the proportion of casts that do not bite,
  • increase the probability of catching “better” fish in a given area – it just allows you to fish in areas where better fish are more likely to be caught.

To quote Tigule and friends ((designers Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton)): “The Fishing skill only determines whether you catch a fish, it does not determine what the fish is or how fast it is caught.” In case you are wondering why I choose to cite the maker of a leading brand of ice cream as an authority on the subject, I once extracted Tigule’s Harpoon from the corpse of Gahz’ranka. He clearly takes his fishing very seriously.


Each area has a base skill requirement to fish in. If you do not meet this requirement, you can’t even cast a line ((you will be told that you don’t have sufficient skill to fish there when you first try and cast)). However, having sufficient skill to cast a line is not the only limitation. If your skill is less than about base skill requirement plus 95, you will find a proportion of your fish “get away” – the bobber splashes, but no fish are hooked. Assume that if you are only about 45 or 50 skill points above the base skill requirement, around half your fish will get away.

A fish that gets away gains you nothing: Neither the fish, nor an improved skill. Fish that get away increase the average amount of time for each catch. If you are catching something particularly valuable, you may be prepared to accept a proportion will get away. Normally avoid fish “getting away”.

There are some incredibly detailed lists of what fishing skill is recommended to fish in what area. After considerable research, I believe the table below summarises the base fishing skill requirements of zones accurately.

Base Fishing Skill RequiredZones
<1 (-70?)Dun Morogh, Durotar, Elwynn Forest, Mulgore, Teldrassil, and Tirisfal Glades.
<1 (-20?)The Barrens, Blackfathom Deeps, Darkshore, Darnassus, The Deadmines, Loch Modan, Orgrimmar, Silverpine Forest, Stormwind City, Thunder Bluff, The Wailing Caverns, and Westfall.
55Ashenvale, Duskwood, Hillsbrad Foothills, Redridge Mountains, Stonetalon Mountains, and Wetlands.
130Alterac Mountains, Arathi Highlands, Desolace, Dustwallow Marsh, Scarlet Monastery, Stranglethorn Vale, Swamp of Sorrows, and Thousand Needles.
205Azshara, Felwood, Feralas, The Hinterlands, Maraudon, Moonglade, Stranglethorn Vale (Jaguero Isle only), Tanaris, The Temple of Atal’Hakkar, Un’Goro Crater, and Western Plaguelands.
330Azshara (Bay of Storms, Hetaera’s Clutch and Scalebeard’s Cave only), Burning Steppes, Deadwind Pass, Eastern Plaguelands, Feralas (Jademir Lake only), Scholomance, Silithus, Stratholme, Winterspring, and Zul’Gurub.

Remember these are the minimum skills required to cast a line. To fish without any “get-aways”, you will need to add 95 to the base skill requirement.

Rules governing fish location

There are a few basic rules which determine the location and availability of most fish. These are true most of the time:

  1. Within one zone, different types of fish can be caught in inland water areas to those in coastal areas. Normally every part of that zone’s coast will give the same types of fish. It doesn’t matter where you stand. The same is true for inland water areas. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, in Azshara, the Bay of Storms (including Scalebeard’s Cave and Hetaera’s Clutch) differs from other coastal regions of Azshara.
  2. The ease of eating the fish ((the minimum level required to eat it)) broadly reflects the prevailing level of the monsters and quests in the area it is caught in. For example, starting zones are teeming with Raw Brilliant Smallfish, which almost anyone can eat ((level 5)), but you won’t see a Large Raw Mightfish ((level 45)) until you fish in the hardest waters of Azshara.
  3. There is a split between freshwater and saltwater fish. Most fish are found either on the coast, or inland, but not both. For example, Raw Whitescale Salmon are only found inland, while Stonescale Eel are only found on the coast. A few fish may be found both on the coast and inland, such as the Darkshore Grouper and Oily Blackmouth.
  4. More valuable fish are often found in at least one zone with a higher base skill requirement and one zone with a lower base skill requirement. The catch rate in the higher-skill zone may be greater than the catch rate in the lower-skill zone. For example, it is possible to catch Stonescale Eels off the coast of Feralas or Tanaris. But the best location for Stonescale Eels is Azshara, where the skill requirement is very high (read the Catching Stonescale Eels topic for evidence).
  5. Catches of certain fish vary by time of day or season. The variation by time of day (known by experts as the “6 hour rule”) is discussed in depth in the Variation by Time topic. Be aware that just because a source such as Thott’s book says you can fish Raw Sunscale Salmon in the pools and rivers of the Hinterlands, does not necessarily mean they can be fished at 03:00. There are also two known seasonal fish – Winter Squid and Raw Summer Bass which switch at the spring and autumn (fall) equinoxes. Squid can never be caught during the summer. Bass can never be caught during the winter. Read the Catching Winter Squid topic for more information.

And you thought fishing was just a case of casting your line and waiting for a fish to bite… right? “Easy to learn, hard to master.”

Developing Your Fishing Skill

You improve your fishing skill by successfully catching fish. However, there is a maximum skill level that you may achieve at each profession rank. You will need to improve your professional rank to advance beyond each maximum skill level. The table below summarises these levels, and what must be done to advance rank.

RankMinimum character levelMinimum fishing skillMaximum fishing skillCostHow to train
Apprentice5751sAny Fishing Trainer.
Journeyman10501505sAny Fishing Trainer.
Expert201252251gTaught by the book Expert Fishing – The Bass and You, sold by Old Man Heming in Booty Bay, Stranglethorn Vale.
Artisan35225300Quest reward for “Nat Pagle, Angler Extreme“, from Nat Pagle, on an small island in Dustwallow Marsh, just west of Theramore.

Costs assume no reputation or rank-related reductions. Fishing trainers can be found in all capital cities – ask a guard for directions. There are also some fishing trainers in other zones, but do not expect to find a trainer in every zone. All fishing trainers teach both Apprentice and Journeyman ranks.


Studying the book Expert Fishing – The Bass and You is the only way to learn Expert rank. The book is sometimes sold at the Auction House. It will usually be cheaper to travel to Booty Bay and buy the book yourself.

Horde can safely reach Booty Bay by taking the boat from Ratchet in the Barrens. For Alliance, the road to Booty Bay is too dangerous to travel alone at level 20. Instead you can swim south down the coast from Westfall – just stay away from the beach until you reach Booty Bay. Old Man Heming, who sells the book, can be found in a small shop next to the ramp up from the sea, in the centre of the town.

Booty Bay is in contested territory, so if the factions are at war ((PvP realms)) people can attack one another in the town. The local “bruisers” (thugs) will break up most fights very quickly, so Booty Bay is relatively safe. Be careful during festivals: The bruisers tend to drink like dwarves, and neglect their duties.


Artisan rank is learnt by completing the quest Nat Pagle, Angler Extreme. There are introductory quests for each faction, which guide you to main quest – for Alliance, “I Got Nothin’ Left!” from Grimnur Stonebrand in Ironforge, and for Horde, “You Too Good” from Lumak in Orgrimmar. You do not need to complete these introductory quests – they will just help you find Nat Pagle.

All the Artisan quests become available once you have 225 fishing skill and have attained at least level 35. It is possible to complete the Artisan fishing quest on your own at level 35. ((The quests are rated at level 45, which means at low level they appear red in the quest log – don’t be deterred.))

Alliance can reach Thermore using the boat from Menethil Harbor. Horde can walk to the area from the Barrens – either by road or south along the coast. Nat Pagel is stood on a small island, in the bay to the due west of Theramore’s piers. ((Coordinates, for those that use them, are 59, 60.)) The water is full of hostile creatures, but with care these can be avoided.

The quest requires you to catch four rare fish and return them to Nat. All four are quest-specific fish: They can only be caught if you have the quest on your log. Since the fish are quest-specific, ensure you are not in a raid group when fishing. Each fish is only caught at one named location. The fish can be caught by fishing anywhere within the named location, just ensure that your current location ((shown on the user interface)) is well within the location given in the quest. The catch normally depends on where the bobber is, not specifically where you are standing, so be cautious when fishing just inside an area. The locations are very specific – not just a zone, but also a specific area within that zone. The catch rate for these fish seems to be about 1 in 10 catches, but it is variable, so don’t be alarmed if it takes many catches.

Completing the quest will require a lot of travelling, particularly if you haven’t already extensively explored Azeroth. You might spend five minutes fishing at each location, but thirty minutes getting there.

Feralas AhiVerdantis River, Feralas (Verdantis River map). ((Coordinates approximately 63,51.)) There are several rivers in Feralas, so ensure you have the correct one. The main road through Feralas crosses the river – you can fish just to the west of the bridge. You can reach the river by taking the road west from Thousand Needles or south-east from Desolace. Alliance approaching from Thousand Needles can avoid the Horde base at Camp Mojache by taking a detour path to the south of the nearby lake.The Feralas Ahi is the hardest of the four fish: Monsters in the zone are level 40 or above, so level 35s need to be exceptionally careful just walking along the road. If the factions are at war ((PvP realms)) you are almost guaranteed to be attacked ((“ganked”)) while you fish. You will need to use lures here to prevent most fish getting away.
Misty Reed Mahi MahiMisty Reed Strand, Swamp of Sorrows (Misty Reed Strand map). The strand covers the coastal area of the Swamp of Sorrows. To reach it, you will need to travel through Deadwind Pass, which links Duskwood to the Swamp of Sorrows, and then walk across the swamp. Stay close to either the northern or southern edges of the swamp, to avoid the Dragonkin near the Temple of Atal’Hakkar. The safest route at low level is to swim north-east up the coast from Booty Bay in Strangelthorn Vale.To avoid wandering Murlocs, fish from one of the small island rocks just off the coast, rather than on the beach.
Sar’theris StrikerSar’theris Strand, Desolace (Sar’theris Strand map). The strand covers most of the mainland coast of Desolace, excluding islands and Ethel Rethor, in the centre of the northern part of the coast. Desolace can be reached from the Stonetalon Mountains, however, since you will need to travel through Feralas to fish Feralas Ahi, travelling up from Feralas may be the easiest option.The easiest place to fish is in the south-west of Desolace, on the coast just south of Shadowprey village. If you have not already done so, you may wish to search for a Big Iron Fishing Pole while in the area – see Fishing Gear section of the Equipment chapter for details.
Savage Coast Blue SailfinThe Savage Coast, Stranglethorn Vale (Savage Coast map). The Savage Coast covers much of the northern half of the Vale’s western coastline, excluding islands. Note that although the quest simply states “Savage Coast”, there are many reports of the fish being caught in the Southern Savage Coast, which covers the remainder of the western coastline, down to just outside Booty Bay.I suggest you fish just south of Grom’Gol Base Camp, where the river falls into the sea. This is the safest location. However almost any part of the Savage Coast is viable.

Once you have all four fish, return to Nat Pagle to gain your Artisan rank. I suggest you gain at least one skill point (up to 226) while stood close to Nat, to celebrate completing the quest. ((Some people report a bug that stops skill rising above 225 if they go somewhere else to fish first.))

You cannot forget how to fish ((unlearn or reset the skill)). There is no need to unlearn fishing – it is secondary skill.

Strategies for improving skill

I recommend you develop your cooking skills alongside fishing. You do not need to cook in order to fish, but the majority of fish are edible, and they taste better when cooked: You will recover more health, or receive a better “buff” when eating cooked fish. Cooking and fishing skills can be developed at about the same rate until Artisan, when fishing skill gains become particularly slow.

There are several guides that give quite detailed instructions on how to level both fishing and cooking in a short period of time. I think the best is Highlander’s guide, but some others are listed under Further Reading. These guides are intended to be used by veterans that suddenly decide to train cooking and fishing skills up from nothing in 12 hours.

I do not recommend gaining fishing skill by “grinding”. There are many advantages to gradually improving your fishing and cooking skills while you improve your own level:

  • The “low-level” fish caught in areas with low base skill requirements are genuinely useful at low-level. Cook them and use them to recover between combat.
  • There is good money to be made from mid-level mid-skill fishing: For example, Deviate Fish and pools of wreckage – see the Valuable Fish and Pools and Wreckage chapters.
  • Continuous fishing is likely to become rather boring. Better to break it up into lots of short sessions.
  • There are plenty of casual opportunities to fish during downtime. The most popular for Alliance is fishing while waiting for boats – you may only catch a few fish during each wait, but you’ll take a lot of boat trips. You can also do some fishing in capital cities – perhaps while waiting to be called up to battlegrounds or raids (from Celoot). Fishing in capital cities also allows you to “rest”.
  • If you want to fish in the most difficult areas, you should also try and get some fishing gear (see the Fishing Gear section of the Equipment chapter). That probably means spending some time at the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza. That can only be done once per week, which does not fit well with rapid skill development.

Further Reading