Update 4/26/14: Big fixes are coming to fishing, according to the 1.1 Patch Notes from the PTS server. Stay tuned, this guide will be updated accordingly.

I could really use a vacation. I mean, I know there's this whole triple world war thing going on, and tensions seem to be pretty high all around, but I've kinda been single-handedly winning this entire war for the Ebonheart Pact over here with all my heroic acts and disturbingly frequent acts of triple arson I keep performing behind enemy lines. Come to think of it, I've burned, like, a shitload of people to death. With magic fire. Man, how many people have I burned to death with this magic fire? A hundred? A thousand? I've become some kinda magic-fire-burning-people-to-death monster... I really need to get away from all this BURNING PEOPLE TO DEATH WITH MAGIC FIRE. I mean, I can't just keep spending all my free time making new staffs for the sole purpose of burning more people to death with more magic fire. That's kind of psychotic.


I should go fishing.

- Azarath Ral'luul, Level 15 Dunmer Dragonknight

Let me start off by saying that fishing in Elder Scrolls Online is, for lack of a better term, absolutely worthless. As it stands right now, fishing in Elder Scrolls Online is broken; or, put more politely, incomplete.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Why is Fishing Worthless and/or Incomplete, Doc?

Once upon a time, fishing was going to be a compliment to the provisioning system, with the fish you catch serving as ingredients for recipes to create food that would give you buffs. According to some random person the internet, they took all that out way back in the early stages of the beta, even though those fish-as-ingredients still exist in the data-mined archives of ESOhead.

So, what is fishing good for, if not for ingredients for tasty snacks like "slaughterfish boil" or "breaded trodh"? Not much, really. Some people have suggest fishing is a quick and easy way to make money. These people are dirty, god damn liars. The majority of fish you will catch will be worth 3 gold, with the rest being bait to catch other fish with. When you get lucky and catch a rare fish, you'll get an achievement, but the fish itself is bugged, and will not show up in your inventory. Occasionally, you'll catch a wet gunny sack, which is a container that holds a couple crafting materials like racial stones or runes stones or trait stones or even a temper. But that's it.

So why would anyone waste time on fishing? I have no idea, and yet I have spent probably more time than anyone in the game (that I know of), figuring out it's dirty little secrets. After creating daily fishing reports on Imgur and posting them on Reddit as a joke, less than a week later I'm now the leader of a 130-plus-man-woman-mer-womer(?)-catman-catlady-lizardperson guild of like-minded individuals. And this is more incredible when you consider the fact that Reddit is full of some of the worst assholes you'll ever meet in your entire life. And going into ESO, I thought I wouldn't have any friends to play it with, and I'd probably drop my subscription after a couple of months - and yet now I have this guild full of totally chill, laidback individuals who just want to have a good time and do some PvF (Player-versus-Fish). All from this horrible, worthless, no-good, broken fishing system.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Basic Fishing Mechanics

Fishing is simple enough to do: it requires no skill points, as it has no skill tree, and no equipment, as the rod magically appears in your hand when needed. All you need is to find some bait and a fishing hole.

A fishing hole will be a puddle of fish splashing around in the water. When you find a fishing hole and look at it, you'll be prompted to hold down E to select a bait.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

A wheel will pop-up, not unlike the quick item wheel, and whatever bait you have in your inventory will appear in one of the 9 bait slots.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Once your bait is selected, when you mouse over the fishing hole again, you will be prompted to hit E to cast your line. And then you wait...

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Somewhere between 10 and 25 seconds later, a fish begins tugging on your line. You have a couple of seconds to hit E again to reel it in. If you don't hit E, you'll lose the fish and waste your bait. But if you do hit E in time, as long as auto-loot is turned off (turn off auto-loot before you go fishing, trust me), you'll see a loot box pop up with one of two things in it:

A) used bait (failure)

or

B) anything else that's not used bait (SUCCESS!)

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, that's just the beginning.

Bait Selection: The Secret to Fishing with 100% Success

Used bait sucks. It confuses a lot of people, because it's marked as bait, so they think it's bait, but it's not: it's used bait. Bait that has been already used. It has a gold value of 0, and no place in your bait wheel: it is garbage.

But when you first start fishing, it seems inevitable that you'll end up with used bait. That's because you're using the wrong bait. I got lucky and found a little book on a bookshelf that changed my life, and was smart enough to take a screenshot of it. From this book, I learned that not about the different fish you can catch and what types of bait to use to catch them, but the different types of water those fish live in. That book is A Guide to Fishing Tamriel by "The Old Slaughterfish".

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

The next page doesn't matter, it literally has one line on it, because Ol' Slaughterfish had a shitty editor. Anyway, right there was the key to unlocking the 100% success rate fishing, compared to the 50% failure rate* you get when using the wrong bait: selecting the right bait for the four different water types. When you use the right type of bait for the type of water you are fishing, not only will you have a 100% success rate, you will also be able to catch the rare fish for your achievements and wet gunny sacks that contain crafting materials.

* I haven't had a really long time to study the failure rate, but with what I've done so far, it comes out to 50%, which is a nice, round number that people love, so I believe it to be true).

The Four Types of Water

There are four different water types that a fishing hole can be: foul water, rivers, lakes, and ocean. What type of water a fishing hole is should be pretty obvious based off of context clues, however, sometimes you can be fooled, especially by foul water.

Foul Water

Slaughterfish and Trodh:

These fish are found in the foulest waters possible: sewers, fetid swamps and in pools near decomposing bodies. A favorite of city dwellers who don't want to leave the safety of their walls, these fish are attracted to crawlers and fish roe.

- A Guide to Fishing Old Tamriel by "Old Slaughter Fish"

At times, foul water can be pretty obvious to spot, like the urine-colored waters of the Sulfur Pools in Stonefalls.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

At other times, it can be harder to tell, like this waterfall near the Armature's Upheaval in Stonefalls, which is foul probably because of all the crap coming out of that forge.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

In foul water, the preferred bait is either crawlers or fish roe, and the fish you can catch here are slaughterfish, trodh and chub.

Rivers

Salmon and River Betty:

Fresh flowing rivers and streams are the home of these tasty fish. They best on baits of insects and small shad.

- A Guide to Fishing Old Tamriel by "Old Slaughter Fish"

Rivers will be any kind of moving waters, usually starting at a waterfall and ending in either a lake or the ocean. When it gets near a lake or ocean, the water type of the fishing hole can vary. The far side of the river across of Armature's Upheaval is one of the rare river fishing holes in Stonefalls (there's only 2 that I know of and they're both on this side of the river).

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

In rivers, the preferred bait is either insect parts or shad, and the fish you can catch are salmon, river betty and fish roe (I know roe is an egg rather than a fish, but you still catch it there).

Lakes

Spadetail and Silverside Perch:

Still lakes with deep holes or overgrowth that let these fish stay out of the sun are the preferred locale for these fish. Guts from small frogs, guar and chickens as well as tiny ocean minnows are the best bait for these.

- A Guide to Fishing Old Tamriel by "Old Slaughter Fish"

Lakes will be any large or small body of water that's not the ocean, like the Steamlake Encampment in southern Stonefalls, that's patrolled by this asshole bull netch.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

In lakes, the preferred bait is either guts or minnows, and the fish you can catch are spadetail, silverside perch and shad.

Ocean

Dhufish and Longfin:

When you are the (sic) by the sea, you should try your hand at catching these beauties. Using common garden worms and small chub will entice the largest of these fish.

- A Guide to Fishing Old Tamriel by "Old Slaughter Fish"

The ocean is... the ocean. Anywhere you're on the coast, you'll find an ocean fishing hole. Any coastal city usually has docks that are good for fishing, like these docks in Ebonheart.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

In oceans, the preferred bait is either worms or chub, and the fish you can catch are dhufish, longfin and minnows.

So now that you know about the four types of water you can find fishing holes in, let's talk about the 9 types of bait, and where to find them.

The Nine Types of Bait

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

When you pull up your handy dandy bait wheel, there are nine different types of bait. These baits are:

Worms

Worms are a preferred bait for oceans. You can find worms when harvesting plants, like jute and other plants used in clothing, or plants used in alchemy, and apparently from zombies-type mobs according to squidgod2000. These are probably the slowest to harvest of the 4 baits you can harvest on land in my experience.

Insect Parts

Insect parts are a preferred bait for rivers. You can find insect parts by harvesting insects you see flying around, like torchbugs, butterflies and flesh flies.

Crawlers

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Crawlers are a preferred bait for foul water. You can find crawlers by killing certain level 1 creatures like spiders, scribs and centipedes, and also from certain zombie-like mobs. You can also find them in plants, like worms.

Guts

Guts are a preferred bait for lakes. You can find guts by killing certain level 1 creatures like chickens, bantam and pony guar, squirrels and rabbits.

Fish Roe

Fish roe are a preferred bait for foul water. You can catch fish roe while fishing in rivers.

Minnow

Minnows are a preferred bait for lakes. You can catch minnows while fishing in oceans.

Chub

Chub are a preferred bait for oceans. You can catch chub while fishing in foul water.

Shad

Shad are a preferred bait for rivers. You can catch shad while fishing in lakes.

Simple Bait

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Simple bait is not a preferred bait for anything. Simple bait sucks. I spent Day 6 of my fishing report explaining why simple bait sucks. You can buy simple bait from a merchant for 15 gold, which isn't worth it at all. Fuck simple bait. I renounce simple bait.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Rare Fish and Fishing Achievements

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Once you've got your bait game on lock, you're ready to catch yourself some rare fish. Most zones have 12 rare fish you can catch to unlock an achievement for that zone; once you get all the zone achievements, you unlock the Fisher King achievement, which grants you the title of Master Angler.

I'm almost 100% sure, at least at this level, that the 12 rare fish are not tied to any specific fishing hole (I had thought for a while that the blues might be) but rather water types, with 1 blue fish and 2 green fish being found in each of the 4 water types. This could make things difficult, for instance, in Stonefalls, where there's only 2 river fishing holes that have been discovered.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

In order to know if you've caught a rare fish, you need to turn auto-loot off. Why, you ask? Because rare fish are currently bugged, and do not loot into your inventory. If auto-loot is turned on, you'll never know you caught one, unless you check your achievements. Hopefully, ZOS will address this soon. When they took the game down on Thursday, they fixed a bug that let you catch veteran rank swords in Stonefalls (along with less important bugs like PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO LOG INTO OTHER PEOPLE'S ACCOUNTS).

Other Fishing Facts

  • A fishing hole appears to have a maximum of 15 total fish in it, though you can discover one with much less. This may be because of other fishing, or possibly because the fishing hole spawned like that.
  • If fishing holes respawn (I've never seen one respawn), they respawn veeeeeeeeery slowly, at least longer than 15 minutes.
  • Changing instances, for instance (lol jinx) by logging out and logging back in, can change what fishing holes are spawned on the map.
  • Allegedly (according to a loading screen tip, fishing in groups improves your chance of catching a rare fish. I've tried this only once, and we fished out our hole after 1 fish.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Fishing Ad-Ons

There are currently no add-ons specifically for fishing (that I know about), however there is one in particular that can be helpful.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

EsoHead Markers, which requires EsoHead to work, recently added fishing holes to the list of things it marks, which is great for remembering the fishing holes you've been to before. The only problem with it, which is a minor one, is that it makes where you were standing while fishing, not the hole itself, so you wind up with several markers around the hole in any place you've ever fished from, which I guess is kind of cool if you enjoy NBA shot charts.

Weird Fishing Bugs

Aside from the most obvious bug of rare fish not showing up in your inventory, there's some other weird little quirks to fishing.

"You can not fish while in Werewolf form."

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

I mean, that doesn't seem like a bug... a giant werewolf probably wouldn't fish with a fishing pole. Except it happens to people who aren't in werewolf form. It seems to be only at certain fish holes at random times, and my ZOS support ticket said they were working on it and to log out and wait 15 minutes to log back. Logging out and logging back in immediately, or just moving on to another hole, worked fine for me.

The Invisible Pole

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

If you cast a line, then hit E to reel it in, and hit E again to cast it again before that animation finishes, you'll fish with an invisible pole.

Starter Island Fish Achievements Not Showing Up

I haven't experience this one myself because the Inner Sea Scalyfin of Bleakrock Isle fish continues to allude me, however multiple people have reported catching blue fish on the starter islands not receiving the achievement for it.

The 12th Fish Needed for the Next Zone's Achievement Not Being Found

Other people on r/ESOFishing are reporting that they can't find the 12th fish they need for an achievement, but instead are finding fish from other areas (like when I found Stinkfish, a fish from Wrothgar (which doesn't even exist in the game, BTW) in Stonefalls).

Update: We have the first documented achievement being earned. Stinkfish in Stonefalls is still a motherfucker, though.

The Behind-the-Back Cast

I haven't figured out this technique, but a guy on reddit posted it and it's pretty hilarious.

Getting Disconnected from the Internet While You Have a Line Cast

This happened to me last night during a thunderstorm, when my internet briefly went out. I had a line cast when the internet went down and after 45 seconds of waiting and not realizing I was offline, I hit e to reel it in early. Except it didn't reel it in, I just started running around with the fishing pole in my hand and my line connected to the fishing hole. It was silly.

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Elder Scrolls Online

Fishing Guilds

If any of this stupid, broken, bugged crap sounds like fun to you, and you want to hang out with some like-minded individuals, check out r/ESOfishing on reddit, or send me a message or mail at @doctor_apocalypse in the game to get an invite to the Tamriel Fisherman's Guild, the #1 PvF guild in all of Elder Scrolls Online (that's for the NA server; if you're on EU, you can message @mafiosen to join the European chapter).