How Pools Appear
The mechanisms that make pools reappear are a mystery to most anglers. As are the reasons why they find more of one pool type than another. Knowledge of these mechanics can let you beat other anglers to the best catches, so are worth understanding.
All pools are grouped into linked sets, even though they seem to be separate. Each zone has at least one set, and at least one set per inland or coastal area in that zone. Each set consists of a series of possible locations where a pool might appear. The number of possible locations in the set varies by area.
When a pool appears it can be of any type possible in the set. For example, if an area can contain Oily Blackmouth School and Floating Debris Pool, either of these two types can appear at any of the possible pool locations. Some sets contain only one type of pool (such as Pool of Fire). Others contain up to four different pool types (such as the coast of Tanaris).
The probability of a specific type of pool appearing seems to be equal for all pool types in the same area. In the previous example, an Oily Blackmouth pool might be just as likely as a wreckage pool. Howevere, "cherry picking" can mean that you are more likely to find one pool type than another pool type.
Cherry picking involves fishing only one type of pool in an area, and leaving all the others.
The type of pool that eventually "replaces" the one that is fished is not decided by the type of pool that was originally fished.
So in the previous example, if you were to fish only Floating Debris Pool, and ignore the Oily Blackmouth School, eventually there would be far more Oily Blackmouth pools to fish than wreckage pools: When a wreckage pool is fished, there is only a 50% chance of a wreckage pool appearing to "replace" it. So for every two wreckage pools you fish, only one new wreckage pool will appear. To maintain a steady supply of wreckage pools to fish, someone needs to be fishing the Oily Blackmouth pools too.
Cherry picking is the main reason why you might be able to find plenty of pools of one type in a zone, but none of another pool type.
The 3 Rules
There appear to be three principles that determine pool spawns within a set:
- There are a fixed number of pool spawning locations in the set, any of which may spawn. There are often several sets in any one zone, so it can be hard to see this pattern.
- There is a maximum number of pools that will be visible at one time across the set, regardless of time since last catch. This is typically between 30-50% of the all possible pool spawning locations.
- Each pool will commonly respawn a certain number of minutes after it was last being fished (emptied). This time period is variable: Originally pool were unlikely to respawn in less than 40 minutes, but will sometimes took as long as 90 minutes. Most current pools seem to use a shorter respawn "timer" - about 10 minutes. Pools in low-level zones, such School of Deviate Fish or Sagefish School, may have no minimum respawn time at all.
In simple terms, if nobody else has fished recently, fishing one pool empty will cause another pool in the set to spawn. In low-level zones there will always be a fixed number of pools available to fish (in that case, two). In slightly higher-level zones, if you fish all the pools in the set faster than the time delay on respawning, eventually you will run out of pools to fish and will need to wait for them to respawn.
For further discussion and evidence, read the Pool Appearance topic.
- Pool Appearance - Examines how pools of fish appear, and suggests some basic rules and timings.
- Also in Pools and Schools: Pool Fishing, Pool Locations, Pool Strategies, Unusual Pools, and Fish of the Day.
Comments about Pool Spawning
Below are readers' comments about "Pool Spawning":
Haalf, October 2008:
I was reading about the the reduction in catches needed per skill point from 1-375 in WotLK. Does anyone know if this is the same on the PTR? I guess what I'm asking is will this be in effect with the patch tomorrow or will we have to wait for the Xpatch?
el, October 2008:
Gummo confirmed the change on the PTR 2 weeks ago. So, I expect the change to appear on live realms shortly.
I also assume we will see the pool name changes. I'm still intrigued if there are any differences between "sparse" and "teeming" pools: I checked catch rates briefly on the beta server at the weekend, and nothing had changed.
Dinura, October 2008:
From what I saw on PTR, Sparse pools have less fish in them (less catches before emptying/disappearing) than teeming pools.
el, October 2008:
I've just updated the leveling guides based on the information I have (EU realms are still down). I'd greatly appreciate it if anyone wants to go through and check everything makes sense (especially the fishing and cooking guides, which have changed a lot - fishing now levels slightly faster than cooking until mid-Outland).
(The final 25 points will be re-written next month when WotLK arrives. Although based on the existing beta, traditional power-leveling to 450 won't be possible, because you need to stop and do lots of daily quests before you can the learn recipes - but more on that later...)
Also, as I wrote in the latest news, I'm very interested in any live fishing-related change. Quite a lot are already on the site, but small changes (like Inscribed Scrollcase scrolls being improved - thanks Gummo) may have been missed.
Oberweiss, October 2008:
Nothing stood out to me as being not updated, but you may want to add a note in the Leveling Fishing Fast guide about enabling the "auto loot" option, or point to the Fishing Add Ons section. The time it takes one to loot a fish isn't incredibly long, but it will add up over hundreds of catches.
Hope this helps.
Gummo, October 2008:
The current Inscribed Scrollcase description says "new rank VI scrolls (requiring level 70)," when rank VI scrolls only require level 60 (the scroll's item rank is 70, whatever that means). Also, they aren't exactly "added to" contents, the level VI scrolls replace the old level V scrolls. I still don't know if scribes can make scrolls of protection; if not, that's an odd omission.
Pool descriptions don't change as fish are taken, do they? If you start fishing out an "abundant" pool, does it eventually change to a "lesser" pool? If not, careful in counting how many catches each type of pool has if you can't be sure someone has previously fished out part of it.
One other change, pools around Serpent Lake (the lake with the instance) in Zangarmarsh don't seem to be grouped in sets where only 1 will spawn, and fishing it out makes another spawn. They all seem to spawn if you wait long enough. My usual circuit is to loop around most of Serpent Lake and all the pools are there if nobody has been fishing. I haven't tried the other lakes as much, but from flying over the Lagoon to Telredor, its pools do NOT all seem to spawn if you wait. So maybe Serpent Lake is unique.
Snickersnack, October 2008:
It looks like the fishing skillup rate on the live servers is the same as it was pre-patch. That is, what we see in beta (and presumably the PTR) did not go live.
el, October 2008:
I leveled for a few points around 320, and everything was taking 9 or 10 catches. Seems odd that fishing was altered so late: For example, Inscription appears unchanged. I've reverted the training section to the patch 2.4 version, and we'll see what WotLK brings. I'll add in Ober's changes "soon".
Inscribed Scrollcase will be updated shortly, thanks.
Pools may now be using the Northrend timing model: An average minimum respawn timer of about 10 minutes (rather than the old hour). Equally, the cap may have been removed on the total number of pools visible. Or both. Or just buggy behaviour. Either way, great observation!
I'd love to get conformation that the daily quest fish are now always caught first time, as they were in beta. You'll also note that they are caught with another fish - the way quest fish work in the pre-TBC parts of the game.
Gummo, October 2008:
Zangarmarsh pools in Serpent Lake have always been like that as far as I know...
Just did the Deadliest Catch -- you get credit as soon as you use the lure with 5 zulian mudskunk, and you don't go into combat right away, so a druid should also be able to do this without dying (unless Gahz'rinka puts everyone in combat when he appears or something). Most of the churning muddy waters are hard to fish solo without being attacked, but one can appear by Nate's point and another that you can fish far enough away from gators, at least for a level 65. I had to reset the instance once to get pools to reappear where I could fish for more mudskunk.
crimsona, October 2008:
Daily quest fish seem to be different now
Since patch, I'm 3/3 in first catch, along with another fish
Azmodan, October 2008:
accelerated skillup is not yet active
el, October 2008:
I'm searching for more information on the 10 skill-point cap theory: Are people close to 375 seeing more than 10 catches per skill-up?
Marlburo, March 2011:
I do A LOT of pool fishing. I can't help to notice that pools (highland guppy/fathom eel) respawn MUCH faster during peak hours. During off hours i can go up and down the coast and have just a couple of pools respawn (and see no one else fishing). While during peak hours I can find multiple pools traveling up and down the coast, even with others fishing. Any evidence to support a better respawn rate during certain hours or is this just another crack pot theory from someone who spends WAY to much time fishing?
Torture, March 2011:
My theory on this is just every time a non-timed pool (fire pools for example as timed) is all fished up another one respawns, so during the peak hours especially when other players are at the nodes they will seem to respawn faster.
el, March 2011:
You're not crazy. I suspect this has always happened: In the past I've timed pools on (almost empty) test realms, then found the same pools appearing much faster on live realms. I suspect most (all?) spawn rates are factored by the number of active players in a zone, but the formula is probably more complex than that, perhaps accounting for the number of players emptying (or for mobs, killing) a spawn, perhaps smoothed over a time period. Of course, as Torture says, this may be a passive affect, simply caused by more people fishing.
The interesting question is whether Cataclysm changed this.
At first I noticed a lot more pools active than before. For example there were often many Deviate pools in each oasis in the (North) Barrens, yet before Cataclysm there was rarely more than one pool per oasis. However, when these pools were fished empty, respawns appeared slowly. So perhaps the cap on the number of active pools in a set was changed?
This topic highlights a quirk of only 1 of a possible 2 types of pool appearing at a time.
In both these cases it is hard to eliminate the possibility of other anglers fishing (or not). My hunch is that the spawning pattern may have changed in Cataclysm, but that this change may itself be buggy.
Marlburo, March 2011:
good to know I'm not going insane lol.....just one quick note/tip about deviate pools which I fish A LOT as well just because they often sell more frequently and at a higher price than blackbelly mudfish on my realm. Pre-cata you had to fish up each oasis for them to start respawning in your current oasis. Now I can stay in the oasis just south of WC and there will be a pool respawning constantly, making it a REALLY good place to work on "Thats A Lot of Bait" achievement (very little travel, always a pool near for hours)
Marlburo, March 2011:
I feel like I can rule out other people fishing having a large effect on respawn rates (although I feel like it used to pre-cata). I used to get up at like 3am to fish because it was the best time to fish pools (always respawned, never got "fished out" as often happened when multiple players were fishing). Currently it doesn't make any sense to do so as I have woken up lots of times at REALLY strange realm hours where there are just 2-3 people in the zone (I would know if they were fishing) and after a few passes up and down the coast the respawns just stop (trust me I know at this point where EVERY spawn point is), and there are literally NO highland guppy/fathom eel pools. I used to think this was a result of the phased pools that you can never fish on the far west coast of uldum, but the same thing happens in twilight highlands where I'm very adept in finding/fishing the phased pools in the "mouth" of the veral river right before the lake. Its like I fished them all out and it takes about 30min for ANY pools to respawn again. That being said, during peak hours when I see others fishing these same areas, respawns are constant. The number of players "emptying" ALL spawns (mobs, etc) I feel is a much larger part of the complicated formula that makes these pools respawn.
Gummo, September 2008:
This should probably be mentioned along with "cherry picking" schools -- if you are fishing a zone that's mostly empty over a period of days, you can "cherry pick" pools on your last run on Mondays, because the weekly maintenance will reset all the pools anyway.
Gummo, September 2008:
One other suggestion (added to my previous old-world suggestion about not always looting trunks to reduce slot space): the Outland fished-up containers (Inscribed Scrollcase, Heavy Supply Crate, Curious Crate) always only have 1 type of item, and so should always be looted, as it will either take up just as much space as the container, or stack with the same item and save a slot.
Cnirec, September 2008:
I probably missed it when posted but "cherry picking" meant to me what I or the guild needed at that moment of that day in Nagrand (example) and fishing all those pools out, maybe if you wish leaving 3-4 pools in a fishing zone open. Then, an hour or three, coming back and not needing to scope the entire area to get a reasonable idea if anyone else had been through fishing.
Unit, October 2009:
I was just wondering if anyone has spoken with a GM or has insider info. about how nodes actually work, fishing nodes in particular.
Are items "preloaded" on a node when they spawn?
If not, when does your random roll for the items in the loot table take place - at the splash or when you actually loot the bobber after the splash?
Grank, October 2009:
If I understand correctly, the GMs would not know the answer, but the Devs would and from what I've seen they don't give out much of the specific game mechanics. Usually it takes players with a good programming background and a fair bit of intuition to figure some things out.
Since pool catches are always random and one can't repeat the experiment (go back and fish the same pool twice) we may never know. If the contents are not created with the pool, then I would guess that the item roll would happen when you click to loot, since there is no advantage to doing it before and slightly lower overhead to delaying it.
el, October 2009:
My initial reaction was also, interesting, but is there any point in knowing? A slightly random response follows:
Pools are held in the realm server's memory, and generated as the realm server is started. If the server crashes they completely reset (including the chance that they will reappear in different places).
Quite a lot of world information is held this way. Until recently, if the realm crashed during the Sunday Extravaganza, non-contest pools would re-generate on re-start, because even the event itself was held in the memory. The state of mobs (creatures) is similar: Probably the most fantastic sight in the game is the mass-submerging of all the dwarf mining machines in Storm Peaks, at the moment the server starts up - an entire field of neatly lined-up machines disappears into the earth. (Unfortunately you need a very unstable test server to plan to see that.)
Loot. The wisdom of EJ suggests that all loot is held in cascading tables - it's an efficient way of creating the illusion of complexity, while also being very hard for us to untangle. Same logic of "illusion of complexity" was applied often in the original WoW - for example, originally all of Azeroth's fish were determined by a 2x6 matrix, with a 4-stage time variation applied to 2 of the 6 zone groups (see Gazetteer) - yet that pattern wasn't broken until I started looking, almost 2 years after the game's release.
The best understanding I have of this comes from rearranging "bugged" stacks of herbs (it should work with ore to): There is a rare chance that a stack of herbs will simply not mill (via Inscription). However, if you gradually move 1 herb at a time out of the stack, into a new stack, there normally comes a point at which one of the stacks can be milled. This suggests that the outcome of the milling is determined by a calculation based on the entire contents of the stack, not simple that "you have herbs". That in turn implies that each herb carries unseen data, because the outcome of the process must always be the same (the initial failure of milling is consistent until the stack composition changes).
Before WotLK, there was an official comment revealing that creature loot was created at the time the creature was created. The specific example was for instances (dungeons), but the same technique would logically apply to everything.
However, WotLK introduced something I call progressive de-randomization of quest drops: The longer you farm for a quest drop, the higher the probability of the drop from each mob killed. After a certain number of kills, the probability becomes 100%. It ended those really annoying ("I killed 100 mobs - this quest sucks") grinds.
During WotLK beta a few people noticed that some of the really annoying quest drops had become less annoying, but I don't think anyone realized the method of determining drops had changed - that was revealed by Tigole some months later.
The change initially caused fish quest items to "drop" with 100% chance - something which I'd found in testing, and remained during the first few weeks of release. So fish were also altered by that change, but possibly in a slightly unusual way.
(It's worth adding that pre-TBC quest fish and TBC quest fish had previously been coded in different ways - one as a separate catch; the other as a catch alongside another fish, like we now have. Fish quest drops were programmed inconsistently, so more likely to get broken.)
While progressive de-randomization only applies to quest items, it is possible that all fixed loot tables are no longer as fixed as we might think. For example, the Dalaran fountain loot table changes based on the presence of a player-specific buff. In theory Blizzard can change the catch rate depending on what hat you have on, whether your faction controls Wintergrasp, or... any spell (even an internal "invisible" buff). And because all the fish drops are decided by the server, there is no way for data-miners to know. Fortunately that doesn't fit Blizzard's overall design, which is increasingly very clear about the factors influencing anything - which is probably why we don't see Variation by Time of day for fish in TBC and WotLK.
Why are loot mechanics changing?
It's probably the worse kept secret that Blizzard had serious problems with databases in the early years. As you might imagine, the volume of constantly changing data floating around WoW is immense. And write-intensive databases don't shard easily.
However, in the 5 years since, server capability has got 3 or so times better - very crudely, you can attach more memory to individual server machines. Which is probably why we're now seeing the evolution of things like drop rates - and more obviously achievements/statistics, or larger numbers of players supported on each realm: A game originally designed just outside the boundaries of the technology, is now comfortably within it.
So, where does that leave pools? It doesn't. I still don't know. But be wary, because what might have been the case a year ago, may not now be the case.
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