Kalu'ak Fishing Derby Strategy

Discusses preparation and strategies for winning the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby. This contest ceased at the start of Mists of Pandaria. For an introduction to the contest, read Kalu'ak Fishing Derby. On this page:

Archive Document: Anglers can no longer compete in the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby. The Derby ran on Saturdays from patch 3.3 until the first weeks of patch 5.0. Fishing contests were then disabled due to cross-realm zone issues. Sunday's Stranglethorn Extravaganza Contest returned to the calendar in patch 5.1, but without Saturday's Kalu'ak contest. Former Kalu'ak Fishing Derby rewards (and the Master Angler achievement) can be gained by fishing in the Booty Bay tournament.

For an introduction to the contest, and rewards, please see Kalu'ak Fishing Derby.

Blacktip Shark Appearance

Elder Clearwater with El
Elder Clearwater with El - In Dalaran for the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby.

We cannot be sure what the chance of catching a Blacktip Shark is. The only official information:

"It is said that these sharks' favorite meal are the bite-sized Pygmy Suckerfish. Perhaps a hook in their waters will do the trick. Because of the increased concentration of fish, you have an increased chance to catch a shark from fishing pools."

Blacktip Shark can be caught anywhere Pygmy Suckerfish can be caught. The chance of catching the shark is higher where the chance of catching Suckerfish is higher.

Blacktip Shark have always been reported to be caught alongside another normal fish, but not with a Pygmy Suckerfish. Blacktip Shark probably just have a small chance of replacing Pygmy Suckerfish.

Random loot "drops" are not always entirely random. Drops can become more or less likely, for example:

"Theory-crafting" is hard because the Blacktip Shark is not a common catch. It is only available for 1 hour each week, and there is no guarantee that it will be caught within that hour. Expect to hear a lot of wild theories about "how to win" that cannot be proven. Some of them may even be correct! If you think that wearing your Lucky Fishing Hat makes all the difference, then wear it... As Milli Featherwhistle says, "your mileage may vary".

However, it seems that the Blacktip Shark is mostly a random catch. With enough anglers, someone will be lucky - the first couple of minutes determine the winner. Strategy should focus on finding a location with several pools close together, catching Pygmy Suckerfish as fast as possible, and returning to Elder Clearwater quickly.


Preparation for the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby is similar to the Stranglethorn Extravaganza. If this is your first contest, you should first read about Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza Preparation. The most important preparations are:

Combat is less likely in the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby. Friends may still be useful, but there are far more places to fish in Northrend than the Stranglethorn peninsula.

There is no level requirement to deliver the shark. It should be possible for a level 5 angler to win, although they have a lot of disadvantages - limited choice of pools and no flight. Similarly, it should be possible for an angler with fishing skill 1 to win. They also have disadvantages - no pool tracking (Find Fish) if below 100, and a lack of expertise and knowledge about pool fishing. The Kalu'ak Fishing Derby favours higher-level, personally experienced, anglers.

With patch 3.3, anglers will never catch junk from pools. This means pools can be fish with fishing skill 1.

Pool Strategy

Northrend Pool
Northrend Pool - Deep Sea Monsterbelly School.

Pygmy Suckerfish can be caught from most pools (schools) in Northrend. They can also be caught from open water in Northrend which is either inland, or on an unnamed part of the coast (zone name only). Each has a different catch rate:

The chance of catching Pygmy Suckerfish from most pools is much higher than open water. If you spend half your time moving between pools, pool fishing will still catch more Pygmy Suckerfish than open water fishing. In most cases, if you are planning to win, fish pools.

Where the contest is extremely popular, it may be more effective to fish open water: If the pools are so intensively fished that the vast majority of your time is spent looking for fresh pools, open water may give the highest chance per minute (discussion).

Like the Booty Bay contest, there are two key strategies to winning:

...And obviously hearthing back to Dalaran quickly once you catch the Shark.

All Northrend pools contain about the same number of fish. So start by looking for a place where pools are close together, so you spend less time moving, and more time fishing.

Of course, everyone else is looking for a place where pools are close together. So those areas attract more anglers, more competition for pools. Pools are fished empty faster, so everyone spends more time moving between pools.

This means there is no "best place". It all depends what other anglers do. Understand the options, and be prepared to change location if your favorite area is busy.

Pool Locations

Northrend pools are found almost anywhere water is found. Except, there are no pools:

Avoid Crystalsong Forest, because Glassfin Minnow School have less Pygmy Suckerfish (so are assumed to have a lower chance of a shark).

That leaves most of southern Northrend. Good and bad reasons to fish pools in each location are shown below. It is possible to fish different areas during the contest, but each change of place takes time. Aim to fish just one area.

Pools are found at precisely the same points during the contest as they are normally. I highly recommend you take some time to learn precisely where pools appear. The best way to do that is to fish!

Kalu'ak Fishing Derby Locations
ZoneWaterCommentary and Recommendations
Borean TundraCoastal
  • Long, easy-to-fly coastline. Area south-west of Warsong Hold has many pools.
  • Unfortunately, there are large gaps between groups of pools. Coastal Borean Man O' War School often contained no fish during the contest. Pygmy Suckerfish could be caught, so it is likely that Blacktip Shark can also be caught.
  • Overall, a simple route, but long flights in search of pools might waste time.
  • Lake Kum'uya (north-east of Warsong Hold) has a fairly large number of pools, arranged round a circular lake.
  • Unfortunately, Musselback Sculpin School may also appear inside the Gammoth and Magmoth caves, or scattered across the Flood Plains. Those are very time-consuming to fish.
  • Overall, Lake Kum'uya is a high risk location: Initially there might be a lot of pools (particularly using an Advanced Strategy), but after a few minutes the new spawns may be elsewhere, and you'll struggle to find fresh pools in the lake.
  • Large gaps between pools. Coastline is not very long, although an angler can travel directly into neighbouring zones.
  • Overall, like most other coastal areas, longer periods are likely to be spent in flight.
  • Lake Indu'le (near Moa'ki Harbor) has many pools in a small, circular pattern.
  • However, Dragonspine Tributary and the Icemist Village area normally do not have enough pools to sustain fishing. Lake Indu'le can be easily emptied of pools because there aren't enough.
  • Overall, inland Dragonblight is more likely to "run out" of pools at any one location than other zones. That may mean a long flight to an alternative location.
The Frozen SeaCoastal
  • Waters near Borean Tundra probably contain the most compact group of pools in Northrend. One of the few places where 4 or 5 pools can be visible without moving.
  • Unfortunately, contest yells cannot be heard in The Frozen Sea. The total number of pools is not huge. The location is most likely to become busy. The nearest alternative (coastal Borean Tundra) is not great.
  • Overall, a good first choice, but be prepared to move if there are too many anglers.
Grizzly HillsCoastal
  • Short sections of coastline, with few pools. Venture Bay contains several pools close together, but probably not enough to sustain fishing.
  • Overall, unless generally travelling along the southern coast of Northrend, avoid the Grizzly Hills coast unless other locations are very busy.
  • Lots of pools in the western half of the zone, with short distances between pools. The Blue Sky Logging Grounds contain a similar number of pools to places like Lake Kum'uya (Borean Tundra).
  • Be warned, that the Blue Sky Logging Grounds are contested ((a PvP area)). Hostile bears often wander over Grizzly Hills' best fishing spots. Distances between pools can be high in the east of the zone.
  • Overall, the Blue Sky Logging Grounds offers the advantage of other lakes (lots of pools close together), but with alterative options if pools stop respawning (fishing the rivers that leave the Grounds). Other hostile anglers may become a problem.
Howling FjordCoastal
  • Long coastline, with plenty of pools. Howling Fjord is furthest from Dalaran, so "lazy" anglers won't fish here.
  • However, distances between pools vary, with some long gaps. Islands mean that the coastal route is slightly harder to follow than other zones.
  • Overall, an option where the contest is very popular, and the anglers are lazy.
  • One of the largest number of inland pools of any zone. Several short loops can be flown round the northern half of the zone. Howling Fjord is furthest from Dalaran, so "lazy" anglers won't fish here. Chance of completing the achievement, One That Didn't Get Away.
  • Pools are often not as close together as zones like Grizzly Hills or Sholazar Basin. Loops are not as compact as loops round lakes in other zones (such as Lake Kum'uya or Lake Indu'le).
  • Overall, probably a slightly better choice than coastal Howling Fjord, particularly where the contest is busy: Plenty of options, with less reason for competition.
Sholazar BasinInland
  • Large number of pools, with fairly short distances between them. Several different loops can be flown round the zone.
  • The main disadvantage is that Sholazar Basin is the most difficult zone to move away from: There are very few pools in northern Borean Tundra, the only neighboring zone with pools.
  • Overall, Sholazar Basin offers a good balance between options (number of pools, routes) and speed (time spent flying compared to fishing). Just hope it isn't very busy!

Bug: Coastal Borean Man O' War School do not contain Borean Man O' War during the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby. Loot windows are often empty.

At low level: The safest location below level 65 is The Frozen Sea. That is much easier to reach for Alliance than Horde. Some sections of the Howling Fjord coast are also safe at low level, as is Winter's Breath Lake (thanks fidget). For more detail, read the Catching the Sea Turtle Mount topic.

Advanced Strategies

Nettlefish School
Nettlefish School

Unlike School of Tastyfish, Northrend pools do not reset when the Kalu'ak Fishing Derby starts. This means that anglers can search for groups of pools before the start, and cast as soon as the contest begins.

Anglers that understand how pools spawn can spend time before the start of the contest emptying pools in "annoying" (time-consuming to reach) locations. Every time a pool is fished empty, the replacement pool that (eventually) appears can spawn anywhere in the set. Keep fishing pools in annoying locations, and eventually all the fresh pools will be in non-annoying locations. A compact group of starting pools means you will initially catch more fish than other anglers. It can turn a poor location into an good location. Other anglers can still try and fish "your" pool once the contest starts, so this strategy works best with friends that hinder other anglers (just like the Stranglethorn contest).

If you plan to return to Dalaran without using a hearthstone (for example, a Kirin Tor ring), set your hearthstone in your "second choice" pool-fishing location. If your first choice location is very busy, simply hearth to the second location.

But I Didn't Win!

Unlike the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza, there is no reason to continue fishing after the winner has been announced:

The Kalu'ak Fishing Derby may be harder to win than the Stranglethorn Extravaganza: Many competitors just want the exclusive heirloom ring, so will only compete in Northrend. However, since the Cataclysm, anglers have become less likely to notice the Kalu'ak contest, which is only advertised in Northrend. Of course, you can compete in both contests. And neither is easy to win. Even with the best strategy, a lot of luck is involved.

Learn More

Comments about Kalu'ak Fishing Derby Strategy

Below are readers' comments about "Kalu'ak Fishing Derby Strategy":

Northrend Pools Distribution Map

  • Balazar, January 2010

    I note the link takes to you a web page, and the download link on the web page is to a .rar file. Perhaps I'm a tad bit paranoid, but I would prefer a straight up image file.

  • Mightfish, January 2010

    Balazar wrote:

    I note the link takes to you a web page, and the download link on the web page is to a .rar file. Perhaps I'm a tad bit paranoid, but I would prefer a straight up image file.

    Thank you for your comments.
    Now, you can direct view a picture.

  • Mightfish, January 2010

    Updated to version 1.1 !

  • Christhina, February 2010

    This is actually very handy, and a good record to show new anglers (and handy for us older, more forgetful types like me) :)

    Mightfish - I wonder only one thing - the links above appear to take me to the same map that is the entire continent of Northrend, and this map is populated with fishing pools where they spawn in each zone.

    Am I missing a reason for the separate links? The map always seems to open "focussed" on Borean Tundra (though I can scroll easily enough to the other zones, of course) - I'm just hoping I'm not missing something, hence I thought I'd ask :)

    Either way, this is well done, and thank you for sharing your hard work with us all :)

  • Mightfish, February 2010

    Christhina wrote:

    Am I missing a reason for the separate links? The map always seems to open "focussed" on Borean Tundra (though I can scroll easily enough to the other zones, of course) - I'm just hoping I'm not missing something, hence I thought I'd ask :)

    Thank you for your support !
    This function seems simple, but the design is very difficulties.
    Sorry, i do not have the ability to solve this problem.

  • Al, February 2010

    Thanks for this contribution to fishing knowledge, Mightfish.

  • Basill, February 2010





    You are now handing out all our well kept secrets... my god what have you done...
    *Equips a fishingpole with razorblades attached and starts hunting newbies looking at maps while fishing*

    On a serious note..

    Job well done, maps looks nice and not overfilled with useless information.
    big thumbs up for the work, love the links to Els site..Cuz I gotta admit..other fishing sites dont reach El´s site to the socks and are not worthy...

    Not so serious note..

    a troll blog..... ;( why not an ally toon..(cuz they kinda rocks)


  • jtb, January 2011

    I am getting a 404 error when i try to access these, are they no longer posted?

  • Christhina, January 2011

    JTB, I am now getting the same.

    Sadly, it seems the map (which was very well done), along with our friend Mightfish, seems to have disappeared :(

  • Mightfish, May 2011


  • Reply

    to "Northrend Pools Distribution Map".

If you follow this advice, you WILL win the Kalu'ak derby

  • khergan, June 2011

    So, I've been trying for quite some time on my fishing character to win either of the contests. After seeing THE SAME guy win on our realm several weeks in a row for the Kalu'ak contest, it occured to me that there had to be some way to maximize your chances to fish up the shark.

    Well, it turns out that the answer is much easier than you may imagine. After finally getting to talk to this person, who ignored me for a period of a few months when I asked, they finally capitulated and here it was:

    Do not fish in pools.

    You'd think that this was counter-intuitive, but it's really not. Yes, you "always" catch pygmie suckerfish from pools, but you also have to spend time making sure that your cast is in the pool (recasts are costly time losses), deal with other people ninja'ing your pools, and moving from pool to pool. You can also get unlucky with pool respawn and wind up flying around for several minutes looking for another to fish in.

    As we know, the shark can be caught from "any waters that yield pygmie suckerfish". Well, it so happens that there are waters that you can catch pygmie suckerfish from WITHOUT fishing in pools. So, in my endeavor to finally get the salty title, I went and fished in Sholazar Basin in River's Heart. Sure enough, the usual crowd of fishers were zipping around fishing in pools, and I just sat on the bank and fished in the lake. I got the shark in 4 minutes, had it back to the Elder barely past the 5 minute mark.

    Since we don't know the mechanics of what makes the shark drop, it's hard to say for sure why this method may be better, however, we do know these basic facts:

    Fishing from open water is faster
    Fishing from open water doesn't require time-costing recasts
    Fishing from open water can't be ninja'd by other fishers
    Fishing from open water can't be obstructed by players' mounts
    Fishing from open water IS, in some way, affected by fishing skill

    Take that and run with it, fellows. All I know now is that 6 of the last Kalu'ak fishing derbies have been won using this exact method on my server (5 from the one guy, and today from me). You might just be surprised when you have your shiny new achievement and title :)

  • khergan, June 2011

    Oh - one other thing, just random extra info for anyone who's interested.

    Faction - Alliance

    Gear - Weatherbeaten Fishing Hat
    Jewelled Fishing Pole (High test eternium line)
    Glow Worm

  • el, June 2011

    Assume the Blacktip Shark simply has a chance to replace a Pygmy Suckerfish, which seems to be true based on the evidence we have.

    Pools have about a 65% chance of yielding a Pygmy Suckerfish (and hence potentially a Shark), vs around 10% from open water. I reckon that normally pool fishing takes twice as long as open water fishing, including time to move between pools and recast. That still makes pool fishing about three times quicker. However, if there is competition for pools, and especially if you need to fly further as a result, open water fishing becomes much more viable.

    So perhaps on a very busy realm... Certainly worth trying to time the proportion of time spent searching for pools, and if it's the overwhelming majority, open water probably is quicker. Of course, if lots of people fish open water, pools will become quicker again, so there is no absolute advice: As ever with these player-against-player contest, half the skill is in adjusting to what your fellow anglers are doing.

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    from "If you follow this advice, you WILL win the Kalu'ak derby".
  • Leonardoh, July 2011

    Thank you so much for this post... following this advice I won it in 8 minutes, I just sat in river's heart in Scholozar Basin and the shark showed up 7 minutes in.

  • Grayseven, July 2011

    I've been at this tourney since it started and today I finally won it. I fished from pools along the eastern coast of the Grizzly Hills and caught it from my 5th pool in around 6 minutes.

    I fully believe that pools are indeed the way to go as the Blacktip Shark appears to replace a PSF catch.

    My tactics have been mostly unchanged since I started. First, I make sure there isn't a ton of people scoping out my area. If there are, I will move down from my normal starting point of the northern most edge. At around the 6 minute mark, I fly down the coast for two minutes, turn around and fly back. This pre-loads the area for me and gives me an idea of where the pools are.

    I also use an add-on called Fishing Buddy. The feature that makes you cast when you have a pole equipped by simply double right clicking saves a ton of time. Ditto making sure actions will dismount you so that you don't have to waste time dismounting.

    Sadly, this still seems very much like a lottery. When I turned my fish in and turned around to head back to the inn, a worgen and a rogue were both dashing out of the inn towards the elder.

  • jester776, July 2011

    OK so let me settle this once and for all for you guys. Two things first.

    1 - If required to do so I can get some kind of fishing data broker to confirm what i am saying!

    2 - Don't flame me or mark for ban just because i dont agree with post!

    So we have a few people here who say fishing open water is faster than fishing schools. This is simply not true. I have for the last month attempted to win the derby in the way stated above. The following are my results for the last 4 derbys I have max fishing skill, fishermans hat, and the gold pole just so you know my equipment.

    derby 1 - 227 casts 78 nettlefish, 118 barrelhead goby , 21 sukerfish 1 blacktip shark on 227th cast

    derby 2 136 casts 36 nettlefish, 88 goby and 12 suckerfish 1 blacktip on 136th cast

    derby 3 fished entire derby time and caught no blacktip from open water

    derby 4 fished for a little over and hour with no blacktip shark.

    While it is obvious that you CAN catch a Shark in open water. What is even more obvious is that you fine pople have been the fortunate souls whose RNG just happened to give them the shark quickly. I have no doubt that fishing open water can possibly net you a shark right off the bat but judging from my personal experience I think we just have few cases of lucky RNG. Now this is not to say this is a bad method !!! especially on a busy server I am just saying you are basically gambling and hoping your RNG pays off before someone elses. I wouldnt doubt that this is in fact how most people win but I dont think it is by any means a lock. This is like betting the same number on a roulette wheel every time because the first time you ever played you won on that number. yes evertually it may happen again but how much will it cost you.

    Once again just my experience. Congrats to all who won this way. Wish my RNG was as nice as yours :)

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Kalu'ak Fishing Derby: Some Strategy is Possible?

  • Sabrieal, February 2010

    Been lurking here for a while but i thought i'd share my thoughts on the Kalu'ak Derby.
    Okay so after having no luck with the Fishing Lottery- I mean Derby so far (I haven't caught a single shark and fished the full hour in every contest so far^^) I've been looking at a few ways one COULD increase their chances of winning.

    A few factors that can affect chances of winning:
    How close are the pools you're fishing?
    How many other people are fishing those pools?

    These are the first two which spring to mind. But how about these:
    How far apart are everyone else's fishing pools?
    How MANY FISH are in their pools? ; )

    These last two are of interest to us because we CAN control them.
    How? Well although it involves spending a good few hours beforehand for relatively small gain, some form of "preparation" is possible. I've noted that people tend to stop fishing pools as much a couple of hours before the contest starts. Starting last week i have begun "forcing" pools into a close group. In Grizzly Hills I succeeded (after a good half hour) Of emptying most of the southern Imperial Manta Ray pools and filling most of the eastern ray schools.

    However, this week i'm going to try something else: fishing as many pools as i can to reduce the number of fish in each pool (apart from mine on the east coast : P) Effectively all one does is fish 2-3 catches out of each pool so that only 1 or 2 fish remain in each pool. The theory being that competitors will take longer travelling between useless pools while I catch the shark and win : D Obviously it's gonna take some time to go around every pool in Northrend, and sure some lucky randomer with a fishing skill of 23 may still get it on his first catch, but it has to help SOMEHOW!

    I'm not sure if some will view this as cheating, but I for one think this is perfectly acceptable : )

    What do you guys think? Too much effort for too little gain?

    Also still wearing max fishing gear out of paranoia incase the skill does have some affect on your chances. :P any proof of that yet?

    Anyways thanks for reading, sorry if post is a bit lengthly. Will let you know if i end up with some nice boots or a broken computer and a sore fist!

  • traconis, May 2010

    When it says that the sharks like this pygmy suckerfish will the shark drop very quickly if you got
    100 pygmy suckerfishes in the bag?

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    to "Kalu'ak Fishing Derby: Some Strategy is Possible?".

Grizzly Hills coast information is wrong.

  • Bergtau, May 2010

    In the guide for this contest, it says to avoid the coastal areas in Grizzly Hills, saying that the pools are few and far between. This is not true in at least one area. The northwestern coast of Grizzly Hills is packed with them, there's at least 2 at the very north section, then 2 more on Bloodmoon Isle, 0-2 on the little islands between Bloodmoon, and then 2-3 more by the trolls on the coast. I'm not sure about anything beyond that, as I've never gotten that far (somebody always wins the contest first). I usually end up with 15-30 fish, depending on how fast the contest is won (which is very fast, never more than 7 minutes on my server).

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