Fishing is the one skill with least impact on your game. If you choose to side with Joja Corporation, you can still develop your farm without ever going fishing. If you develop the Community Centre, you will need to develop this skill at least a bit by mid First Summer, but you can leave it alone after you have completed the Fish Tank Bundles. If you’re struggling with it, see the strategies below for coping with poor fishing skills.
Playing the fishing mini-game:
To catch a fish, find a source of water, walk to the edge and face the water; wield your rod; then left-click-and-hold with your mouse over the water. Release the click to complete the cast. You should find that your character casts the line into the water and waits. Fish star quality depends on the distance the cast lands from walkable areas. Wait until something tugs on your line (you’ll see a yellow exclamation mark over your character’s head, and hear a melodic burr) and then click once to reel it in.
Junk will reel in immediately, but for a fish you have to go into a mini game. The fish will fight you - it will go up and down - and you can only reel it in if you keep your green bar on it. So you control the green bar, by left-clicking to impart an upward acceleration to the bar - release the mouse and the bar will start to fall - half-second clicks will usually let you keep the bar hovering.
On the right of the mini-game is a vertical progress bar. It rises when the fish is within the green bar, and falls when the fish is outside that range. Your fish is caught when you’ve filled this bar right up to the top.
Try to keep the green bar on the fish. Every time the fish "escapes" the green bar, its progress bar falls (very rapidly in the early game). If the progress bar hits 0, the fish gets away. If it hits 100, you catch the fish.
If the green bar falls to the bottom, it will bounce (it will also bounce off the top of the range). You can prevent a bounce off the bottom by clicking to slow the fall just before the bar hits. (Or by using tackle when you've leveled up - the lead bobber - but other tackle is considered better.)
Collecting your fish
Different types of fish appear in different places. Fishing in Cindersap Forest will yield you River fish. So will fishing in Pelican Town, but it’s a slightly different population. Fishing in the Mountains will yield you Lake fish. Ocean fish are naturally caught from near the Beach. There are other kinds of water that you can uncover as you progress through the game - a pond in the Secret Woods, another in the Desert, in the Sewers, in the Witch’s Swamp, and three in the Mines.
Different fish are available at different times of day, in different seasons, and in rain or sun conditions. In-game, Living on the Land will comment on some fish and other information can be found in Library books once you’ve found the right lost books. To catch all the fish for the Community Centre (or all the fish for the achievement!) you need to plan … once you’ve got a variety, look up the fish on the Stardew Valley Wiki and take note of which fish you want, which of those fish are available in the current season, where they are to be found, whether it should be raining, and what time of day to find them. Rarer fish are more likely to bite your hook on lucky days.
Keep one of each fish as you catch them, at least until your Community Centre bundles are done. After that, keep one of each rare or valuable fish. Past the early game, cheap fish probably aren’t even worth selling - craft them (with some sap) into fertiliser!
The hardest fish to catch from the Community Centre bundles is the Pufferfish, which is *only* available from the Ocean during Summer on a sunny day between 12noon and 4pm. It’s a difficult fish that dodges up and down the bar quite quickly. Fortunately, of all the fish in the game, the Pufferfish is most likely to be sold at the Travelling Cart, and that in any season. You can just visit Cindersap Forest on Fridays and Sundays until it turns up in the gypsy’s inventory.
If you like the fishing game, there are many more fish to catch than are needed for the Community Centre, including five Legendary fish which may only be caught once. If you catch every fish in the game, Willy will send you a stardrop.
As you level up in the fishing skill, your fishing bar gets longer, you can cast further, and catch higher quality fish. At level 5 you get to choose between the Fisher profession and the Trapper profession, so take Trapper if you’re using crab pots, or Fisher if you aren’t. At level 10, a Trapper can choose to have their pots permanently baited (Luremaster) or never catching trash (Mariner) - trash can be recycled into good stuff but it may no longer be worth your time to feed it into a recycling machine. A Fisher may choose between Angler (fish sell for even more) or Pirate (treasure occurs more often.) None of these options are bad …
What should you do with your fish? In the early game they’re worth selling; there are only a handful of forageable items generated each day, but there is an infinite supply of fish, so fishing can yield more money than foraging. In the later game, fish are most useful as the ingredients for Quality Fertiliser. Particular fish are required for some cooking recipes (and these recipes can confer nifty temporary bonuses) and it’s good to have a particularly outstanding fish available for your Grange display in Autumn.
Sometimes when you are in the fishing mini game, a Treasure icon will appear on the bar. This will not move. It is caught the same way as the fish - if you keep your green bar behind it for long enough, a little (horizontal) progress bar will fill up; once it has, the chest icon will disappear.
You still have to land the fish! If the fish’s progress bar runs out while you are landing treasure, or afterwards, you lose everything. This makes catching treasure a very dicey proposition; you can only really do it when you have room to spare.
The best way to catch treasure is when the fish you are trying to catch happens to hover near the treasure chest; then you can position your bar to cover both of them, and maybe hesitate just a little to finish the chest when the fish darts off. (Naturally this is easier when you have a high fishing skill, so a long green bar.)
The other alternative is when you’ve recognized that you’ve got an easy fish on the line. Build up most of the fish’s progress bar, then divert your green bar to the treasure chest - that progress bar fills up very quickly - then go back to your fish before it escapes. This is easiest when you have a Trap Bobber on an Iridium fishing rod, because then the fish does not escape very quickly.
If you do catch treasure, then when you land the fish, you will see a little treasure chest open up, and you will have the option of transferring the treasure into your inventory. Treasure can be anything from a single piece of Bait to a Prismatic Shard, including Weapons, Armour (boots) or Artifacts.
If the fish is difficult, ignore the treasure.
Coping with poor fishing skills
The fishing mini-game is not for everyone. The fishing game is at its hardest when you first start playing Stardew Valley. Your character has no skill with the rod, and you may have no skill with the mini-game. If your fishing prospects don't look great, but you still want to try it, follow these steps:
- Buy one or two Trout Soup from Willy if you have gold. It's good general food (a little worse than Salad from the Saloon), so it's not a waste of your money to buy two.
- Go straight north and east to the Carpenter's Shop and the Mountain Lake, at the east end of the long fence and start fishing from there. Some of the fish here can be caught passively (no clicks).
- Eat the fish and algae you catch as needed for energy and note whether you are already making fishing energy-positive.
- If you start to have success and feel good about your fishing spot(s), but your fishing is energy-negative or you would just like a bit of help for 4 1/2 real-world minutes (maybe to see if you will be able to endure this once you level up), eat a Trout Soup and fish non-stop as you note the Buff icon near your clock.
- If your casts suddenly get longer even after your Trout Soup Buff is gone, congratulations. Check your skills; you just leveled up in Fishing. Now you can reach silver star fish that are a little further from walkable areas. You may not be fishing for income this month, but at least you know you can eventually succeed.
- If after all that, you still bombed out at fishing, just forget about it for now.
If you really don’t want to go fishing, you can buy a membership in Joja Corporation, and develop your community using simply money earned on your farm, rather than working on the Community Centre. (Or you can go hunt out a mod that makes fishing (much) easier.)
But the Community Centre path is more appealing to most people. It leads you to explore the game and it makes more story sense. So how can you pursue this, in the standard game, when you can’t land a fish? (I couldn’t land a fish when I started.)
Fortunately, Crab Pots count as fishing. And for this, you can get the Community Centre on your side. The Crab Pot bundle in the community centre needs 5 items from a long list. Four of those items can be found foraging on the beach. So do that. You can get a fifth item - the crab - in the mines, by killing the rock crabs in levels 1-29 that sometimes appear when you think you’re hitting a rock. They’re not a perfectly straightforward fight - but beat them over the head with your pickaxe until their shell breaks, then they are easily finished off with a sword. They have a 15% chance of dropping a Crab. You might not get a crab dropped by the first one - or the tenth one - but you hate fishing, right? So keep at it until you do get one. (Also collect bug meat and Earth Crystals which are not readily available otherwise.)
Once you’ve got all 5 items, the Community Centre Crab Pot bundle will yield 3 crab pots. Now we have just one problem - bait! The crab pots need to be baited. Willy does not start selling bait until you have reached Fishing level 2, at which point you can craft your own from Bug Meat anyway. By hook or by crook, we’re going to have to get that far.
So we’re going to go fishing for junk. Seaweed, broken glasses, trash - it’s all good. It all comes in without the fishing mini-game. Every bit of junk you haul up counts as 3 XP for developing your fishing skill, and you need 100 to level up. (Keep the junk, too; it can be recycled into good stuff later.) How do we catch trash? We do the *worst* things you can do for fishing. We fish in our own home pond, which has almost no fish in it. (If there is a fish, it’s probably a carp, which is one of the easiest to catch.) We go fishing on bad luck days.
If even that is driving you bonkers, make friends with Linus, the Wild Man. He lives in a tent near the mines, and he likes fresh produce, and he loves Yams. When he likes you enough, he will show you how to craft Wild Bait. This needs Fibre, Bug meat and Slime - all of which you can get in the copper levels of the Mine. It's relatively expensive compared to straight bait, but it will still bait your crab pots, until you get to Fishing Level 2.
Once you have Fishing level 2, you can craft bug meat into bait or buy some from Willy. Place the crab pots somewhere you go often - your own home pond will do! Add bait to each one. And every day, empty the crab pots, and bait them again. This will get you some Fishing XP every day (5XP per crab pot). Once you reach Fishing level 3, you will learn how to make more crab pots. In the early game they’re expensive, but we don’t need to be doing this in the early game. In the mid game you can probably afford a good few more. When you get to Fishing level 5, you will naturally take the Trapper profession, after which Crab Pots are a great deal cheaper.
Eventually you will want to start going out and catching fish. Perhaps after you have reached Fishing level 6, when you can buy an Iridium Rod and some tackle. (This will take a lot more than 3 crab pots, mind you!) Now you can see what the Crab Pots have given you. Your character’s fishing skill has now increased, which means that the green bar you’re trying to manipulate is much bigger; it’s easier to keep it behind the fish. You can also buy a few different types of tackle - particularly the trap bobber, which makes the fish slower to escape your line, but also the cork bobber, which makes your catch bar longer. And there are cooked meals that temporarily buff your fishing skill, including Trout Soup which Willy sells.
Now it’s time to develop the player’s skill, and we’re going to start by going after the commonest nastiest easiest fish we can find. Carp are good, they have an obliging habit of barely moving off the bottom of the fishing range. So now we’re going to stop fishing for junk in the home ponds, and actually try the river - and the ocean, and the lake. But we’re still inverting the other habit of a skilled fisherman. Check the day’s luck forecast on television. If it’s a good luck day, you probably want to go mining. You want to fish on bad luck days when the common, easy fish are more likely to bite your hook than the rarer, more difficult ones. They’ll still give you more XP than the crab pots, and you’ll still learn how to catch fish.
When you press the mouse button (or key) that imparts an upward acceleration to your green fishing bar. Half-second clicks are usually about right to raise or hover the bar, release the mouse and the bar will fall. It bounces off the bottom - if you don’t want it to, try to click the mouse just before the bar hits the bottom, to kill its momentum. If the treasure icon appears, ignore it. Treasure cannot be landed if you do not catch the fish, and it usually makes catching the fish more difficult because the fish is usually getting away while you’re securing the treasure. Forget the treasure. Catch the fish. Celebrate your success, and then try to catch another one. Gradually, you will learn what you need to.
Some of the fish you need to catch for the Community Centre are quite difficult to catch. Particularly notable here is the Pufferfish, which can only be caught in the Ocean, in Summer, between 12 noon and 4pm, (when you’re probably otherwise occupied,) and it’s one of the highest difficulty fish in the list, which means it dodges up and down quite a lot and quite quickly. There is a short-cut, assuming you’ve got your farm humming along putting out the money. Visit the Travelling Merchant, the gypsy in a van pulled by a pig with sunglasses, who will be in Cindersap Forest (south of your farm) on Fridays and Sundays. Her inventory is different every time, but fish do appear, and the Pufferfish is more likely to appear than the others. 1000 gp - you probably wouldn’t spend that in your first Spring, unless you’ve had a very successful start, but later in your farm’s development it should be readily affordable.
The Travelling Merchant may sell any and every fish in the game (except the Legendary Fish) but waiting on her to sell every fish for the Community Centre is going to take a long, long time.