Fishing Guide – Variation by time

This topic explores how catch rates for fish vary by time of day. On this page:

The 6 Hour Rule

The “6 hour rule” is attributed to Willhelm, so I’ll quote his original findings here:

“Fish drop rates change four times a day. That’s right! Fishing zones have four time zones!

  • Time Zone 1 = 6am-12pm
  • Time Zone 2 = 12pm-6pm
  • Time Zone 3 = 6pm-12am
  • Time Zone 4 = 12am-6am

“Now, when it comes to alchemy/special fish – there’s at least one time zone that that particular species does not drop, and one time zone that they often drop.

“As an example … I’ll chart out for you Stonescale Eels and Nightfin Snapper:

  • 6am-12pm = Average drop rate
  • 12pm-6pm = None
  • 6pm-12am = Average drop rate
  • 12am-6am = Best time!

“However, Winter Squid/Summer Bass (depends on season) has a different one:

  • 6am-12pm = Average drop rate
  • 12pm-6pm = Best time!
  • 6pm-12am = Average drop rate
  • 12am-6am = Below average drop rate

“Now, what about Sunscale Salmon?

  • 6am-12pm = Average drop rate
  • 12pm-6pm = Best time!
  • 6pm-12am = Average drop rate
  • 12am-6am = None”

Nightfin Snapper and Sunscale Salmon are extreme examples of the 6 hour rule. During one of the 6 hour periods it is impossible to catch the fish. They are the single easiest example to demonstrate the rule with: Simply fish for two hours over midnight, and observe how you occasionally catch a Sunscale Salmon before midnight, but you never catch one after. Still don’t believe me? Fish a third hour and see… The only part of this rule I’ve not confirmed is the change at 06:00. I tend to sleep through it.

What is less well known is that the catch rates for many types of fish vary by 6-hour periods. The statement that no Stonescale Eels can be caught between 12pm and 6pm isn’t accurate. I’ll show why in a moment. However, the catch rates vary by time of day. The best time for Stonescale Eels is 00:00-06:00. We will also see that these variations in time affect both the type of fish and the location: The same pattern does not always apply to all locations.

18 Hours at Feathermoon Stronghold

To demonstrate that catch rate vary by time of day for more than just Nightfin Snappers and Sunscale Salmons, I conducted an extended test at the Elven seaport of Feathermoon Stronghold. The location was chosen because of the ease of selling fish, the ability to fish there without using lures, the low level of Horde activity, and the usefulness of most of the fish caught: Would you believe me if I told you that I both started and finished the Alliance Ahn’Qiraj War Effort for Spotted Yellowtails?


Rather than fish continually for 18 hours, I fished different hours over the course of several weeks. Eventually I had fished at least 55 minutes for each hour between 09:00 and 03:00. Each catch was recorded, plus the number of casts that did not bite. The number of casts and catches is summarised in the tables below.

Feathermoon Stronghold Casts and Catches 09:00-18:00
Hour (Commencing)91011121314151617
Minutes Fished605560110605512011560
Total Casts149139153276149138299303147
Casts per Minute2.
Percentage No Bites5%3%5%7%7%7%4%5%5%
Total Catches142135145257138128286288139
Catches per Minute2.
Feathermoon Stronghold Casts and Catches 18:00-03:00
Hour (Commencing)181920212223012
Minutes Fished555560555555605555
Total Casts138140154138130134153143140
Casts per Minute2.
Percentage No Bites8%6%6%6%8%9%5%2%7%
Total Catches127131145130119122146140130
Catches per Minute2.

The third table shows casts and catches over the entire 18 hour period, and for the each of the “6 hour rule” periods.

Feathermoon Stronghold Casts and Catches Summary
Minutes Fished1701755203351,200
Total Casts43644113128343,023
Casts per Minute2.
Percentage No Bites5%4%6%7%6%
Total Catches4164221,2367742,848
Catches per Minute2.

There are no important changes in the number of casts per minute, at 2.5 (+/-0.1). There is some evidence that the percentage of casts that don’t bite increases in the evening. However, the figures are so variable that it is difficult to draw firm conclusions.

Fish catches by hour

The following two tables show each fish caught as a percentage of all catches in each hour. Tests were carried out during the summer, so all the seasonal fish are Summer Bass, not Winter Squid. “Other” includes boxes (Heavy Crates and Locked Ironbound Chests) and rare heavy fish, such as the 53 Pound Grouper.

Feathermoon Stronghold Catch Proportions 09:00-18:00
Hour (Commencing)/Fish91011121314151617
Big-mouth Clam11%8%16%10%9%9%11%17%13%
Firefin Snapper14%11%10%12%12%10%9%11%9%
Glossy Mightfish7%12%11%2%5%6%5%3%4%
Rockscale Cod9%10%6%13%9%9%11%9%9%
Spotted Yellowtail42%39%39%43%43%46%38%42%42%
Stonescale Eel7%7%8%5%6%5%7%6%4%
Summer Bass9%13%10%14%14%14%19%11%19%
Feathermoon Stronghold Catch Proportions 18:00-03:00
Hour (Commencing)/Fish181920212223012
Big-mouth Clam5%8%14%8%8%14%0%0%0%
Firefin Snapper9%7%10%9%11%12%12%9%11%
Glossy Mightfish12%9%8%15%8%11%18%18%18%
Rockscale Cod12%10%8%12%13%7%12%14%10%
Spotted Yellowtail39%39%35%38%40%36%40%43%40%
Stonescale Eel11%18%13%9%10%7%18%15%22%
Summer Bass13%8%10%8%7%10%0%0%0%

Too many numbers! I know a lot of dwarves struggle above ten, so I’ll try and explain what the numbers mean.

The first thing to appreciate is that there is quite a lot of variation between individual hours. This has to be expected given the low “sample sizes” (typically 120-140 catches per hour). If I “get lucky” one hour and catch a few extra fish, the figures are skewed by a couple of percentage points. We should therefore only look for big changes in percentages hour-to-hour. So, although Firefin Snapper, Rockscale Cod and Spotted Yellowtail all vary slightly hour-to-hour, overall their catch percentages are fairly constant. We might conclude that those fish do not vary over time, at least at this location.

Let’s look at two fish that do vary by time: Stonescale Eel and Summer Bass.

Percentage of all catches that are Stonescale Eel, by Hour at Feathermoon Stronghold
Graph: Percentage of all catches that are Stonescale Eel, by Hour at Feathermoon Stronghold.

The morning (09:00-12:00) catch rate appears to be a little higher than the afternoon rate (12:00-18:00). The average between 18:00 and midnight is higher again, although very variable. The highest average is after midnight. However the variations mean that certain individual hours prior to midnight exceed individual hours after midnight. The 6 hour rule is not as clear as we might expect – a simple stepped changed. However all the main shifts in the pattern occur at 12:00, 18:00 and 00:00, when we would expect them.

Percentage of all catches that are Summer Bass, by Hour at Feathermoon Stronghold
Graph: Percentage of all catches that are Summer Bass, by Hour at Feathermoon Stronghold.

Catch rates follow the 6 hour rule fairly closely: Medium catch rates in the morning and evening, the highest rates in the afternoon, and no catches at all after midnight. Failing to catch a single Summer Bass (or Big-mouth Clam) for three hours after midnight came as a surprise. Both fish can be caught in reasonable quantities after midnight in the Bay of Storms in Azshara: My conclusion is that variations in catch rate by time change for both the fish and the location.

That conclusion is a problem for those who are trying to work out where the most effective place to fish a certain type of fish is. Even if we can identify the best time in one location, we cannot be sure that this will be the best time at another location. We would need to fish at each location over a range of different times throughout the day. We might need to fish for several hours in each 6-hour period to be sure, because the data in any one hour is so variable.

Fish catches by period

In spite of variations within hours, there are clear shifts at 6-hourly intervals. It is reasonable to summarise rates by 6 hour periods, as shown in the table below.

Feathermoon Stronghold Catch Proportions Summary
Big-mouth Clam0%12%12%10%
Firefin Snapper11%12%11%10%
Glossy Mightfish18%10%4%11%
Rockscale Cod12%8%10%10%
Spotted Yellowtail41%40%42%38%
Stonescale Eel18%7%6%11%
Summer Bass0%10%15%9%

Since six hours are still missing from a complete day, using of all data to represent a day is dangerous. However, 03:00-09:00 is the quietest time of day, when the smallest amount of fishing occurs. I have therefore attempted a comparison between all my results and the proportions listed in the book of Thott (which does not differentiate by time of day). At the time of writing ((end of July 2006)), Thott records 104,600 catches at Feathermoon Stronghold. These have been collected by many different fishermen and women.

Feathermoon Stronghold Catch Proportions Comparison
Big-mouth Clam10%7%
Firefin Snapper11%9%
Glossy Mightfish9%10%
Rockscale Cod10%9%
Spotted Yellowtail40%40%
Stonescale Eel9%9%
Summer Bass/Winter Squid11%7%

Thott’s results for Summer Bass and Winter Squid have been added together, since these are seasonal fish. I assume the proportions of Winter Squid are the same as Summer Bass, but have no way to check.

The two sets of data are very similar. Thott relatively under-records Summer Bass/Winter Squid and Big-mouth Clams. This may mean that people are more likely to fish at Feathermoon Stronghold after midnight than at other times. This doesn’t reflect overall fishing activity across Azeroth, but is logical here: Most people fishing at Feathermoon Stronghold will be trying to catch Stonescale Eel. These are known (and proven here) to be most common after midnight.

Further Reading