When and where to find Animal Crossing’s rarest fish

The rare fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be the bane of your completionist career. Whether trying to fill out your museum or critterpedia, or to just make stacks of bells from C.J., there’s bound to be a finned friend or two that’ll stop you in your tracks.

New Horizons is already the most successful entry in the entire franchise. It’s also the most extensive release by far, adding intricacies on top of familiar challenges.
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Animal Crossing doesn’t throw every fish at you at once. They often show up during certain months or even at specific times of the day. Knowing when and where each rare fish spawns can save you a lot of time and frustration. To help, here’s a list of the rarest fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, when and where they spawn, and how many bells you can expect to get for them from the Nook twins.

Animal Crossing hemispheres explained

When beginning your Animal Crossing: New Horizons adventure, you’re asked whether you want an island on the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. The idea is to choose the one to match where you live, but you’re free to choose whichever you like.

Your choice of hemisphere dictates seasonal changes, ultimately affecting the months in which fish and bugs spawn on your island, so it’s important to know which area your island is in.

Here’s a quick reference sheet of which months comprise the four seasons on both sides of the world.

  • Spring: Northern = March, April, May | Southern = September, October, November
  • Summer: Northern = June, July, August | Southern = December, January, February
  • Autumn: Northern = September, October, November | Southern = March, April, May
  • Winter:  Northern = December, January, February | Southern = June, July, August

Animal Crossing rare fish times and locations

Animal Crossing rare fish guide

Northern Hemisphere

  • Golden Trout: River (Cliffside), March-June/Sept.-Nov., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Oarfish: Sea, Dec.-May, all day (9,000)
  • Stringfish: River (Clifftop), Dec.-March, 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. (15,000)
  • Coelacanth: Ocean, all year, rain (15,000)
  • Barreleye: Ocean, all year, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. (15,000)
  • Blue Marlin: Pier, July-Sept./Nov.-April, all day, (10,000)
  • Snapping Turtle: River, April-Oct., 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. (5,000)
  • Tuna: Pier, Nov.-April, all day (7,000)
  • Mahi-Mahi: Pier, May-Oct., all day (6,000)
  • Giant Snakehead: Pond, June-Aug., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (5,500)
  • Giant Trevally: Pier, May-Oct., all day (4,500)
  • Ranchu Goldfish: Pond, all year, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (4,500)
  • Ocean Sunfish: Ocean, July-Sept., 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. (4,000)
  • Saw Shark: Ocean, June-Sept., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. (12,000)
  • Great White Shark: Ocean, June-Sept., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. (15,000)
  • Whale Shark: Ocean, June-Sept., all day, (13,000)
  • Hammerhead Shark: Ocean, June-Sept., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. (8,000)
  • Blowfish: Ocean, Nov.-Feb., 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. (5,000)
  • Napoleonfish: Ocean, July-Aug., 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10,000)
  • Koi: Pond, All year, all day (4,000)

Southern Hemisphere

  • Golden Trout: River (Cliffside), March-May/Sept.-Dec., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Oarfish: Sea, June-Nov., all day, largest shadow (9,000)
  • Stringfish: River (Clifftop), June-Sept., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m., largest shadow (15,000)
  • Coelacanth: Ocean, all year, rain, largest shadow (15,000)
  • Barreleye: Ocean, all year, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., small shadow (15,000)
  • Blue Marlin: Pier, Jan.-March/May-Nov., all day, largest shadow (10,000)
  • Snapping Turtle: River, Oct.-April, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., extra-large shadow (5,000)
  • Tuna: Pier, May-Oct., all day, largest shadow (7,000)
  • Mahi-Mahi: Pier, Nov.-April, all day, large shadow (6,000)
  • Giant Snakehead: Pond, Dec.-Feb., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., extra-large shadow (5,500)
  • Giant Trevally: Pier, April-Nov., all day, very large shadow (4,500)
  • Ranchu Goldfish: Pond, all year, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (4,500)
  • Ocean Sunfish: Ocean, Jan.-March, 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., fin shadow (4,000)
  • Saw Shark: Ocean, Dec.-March, 4 p.m. to 9 a.m., fin shadow (12,000)
  • Great White Shark: Ocean, Dec.-March, 4 p.m. to 9 a.m., fin shadow (15,000)
  • Whale Shark: Ocean, Dec.-March, all day, fin shadow (13,000)
  • Hammerhead Shark: Ocean, June-Sept., 4 p.m. to 9 a.m., fin shadow (8,000)
  • Blowfish: Ocean, May-Aug., 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., medium shadow (5,000)
  • Napoleonfish: Ocean, Jan.-Feb., 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., largest shadow (10,000)
  • Koi: Pond, All year, all day, large shadow (4,000)

Crafting and using bait to catch fish

Animal Crossing manila clam bait

If you were intrigued enough by those little spouts of water coming from your beach to dig them up, you likely pulled up a manila clam and learned how to make bait. Bait, crafted with a single manila clam, is used to spawn fish in nearby waters.

Stand near a body of water and sprinkle the bait from your inventory into the pond, river, or sea. A shadow should spawn almost immediately.

There are no secret spawn rates triggered by this particular item. Not that we can reliably claim with current data, anyway. It’s just a way to speed up random fish spawns.

What it can be used for, however, is to hopefully reduce the amount of time needed to catch something like the stringfish, koi, or golden trout due to their limited spawn points. Toss bait into cliffside pools, and you’ll dramatically speed up the fishing process, hopefully allowing you to reel in a rare fish in less time.

What’s the dock or pier for?

Animal Crossing rare fish dock pier

You also pick from a handful of island layouts when you first begin the game. These are randomly generated so no two look the same right off the bat. However, there are a few features every island has, even if the exact location varies. The important one for fishing is the pier. The pier can attract unique, hard-to-find ocean fish — namely the tuna, blue marlin, mahi-mahi, and giant trevally.

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