Skill Required by Location
You can fish any pool with fishing skill 1. Higher fishing skill is not required to fish pools.
You can cast into any open water with fishing skill 1, but each area also has a "no-junk skill".
If your effective fishing skill equals the no-junk skill, you will not catch junk in open water: Every catch will be a regular fish or item. Your effective fishing skill is your personal fishing skill, plus bonuses from gear and lures. Try to fish with at least the no-junk skill, if fishing in open water. There is no known extra advantage for having your effective fishing skill above the no-junk skill.
If your effective fishing skill is below the no-junk skill, a proportion of your catches from open water will be a junk item, such as Driftwood. Junk is replaced by excess Golden Carp in Pandaria. These items can be sold to vendors, but are generally not as valuable as the fish you would catch if your skill were high enough. It is normally best to avoid catching a lot of junk!
The greater the difference between your effective fishing skill and the no-junk skill, the more junk you will catch. The precise formula is derived here.
For example, Dalaran requires 525 skill to fish without junk. If you fish there with skill 500, only 9% of your catch will be junk. At skill 50, 99% of catches will be junk.
After considerable research, I believe the table below summarises the no-junk fishing skill values of zones and areas accurately.
Rules Governing Fish Location
For those anglers that want to better understand where fish are found, there are a few basic rules which determine the location and availability of most fish. These are true most of the time:
- Different types of fish can be caught in inland water areas to those in coastal areas within the same zone. Normally every part of that zone's coast will give the same types of fish. It doesn't matter where you stand. The same is true for inland water areas. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, catches in Mount Hyjal's Throne of Flame (lava) differ from other areas of Mount Hyjal.
- The minimum level required to eat the cooked fish broadly reflects the prevailing level of the monsters and quests in the area it is caught in. For example, starting zones are teeming with Raw Longjaw Mud Snapper, which almost anyone can eat (level 5), but you won't see a Bonescale Snapper (level 70 to eat cooked) until you fish in Northrend.
- Most valuable fish can be caught from open water and pools within open water. Pools ("schools") were illustrated in the Equipment and Pools section. Where a fish is found in both open water and a pool, pools are normally the quickest method of catching the fish... but not always.
Extra rules apply to Old Azeroth only - not Outland, Northrend, Pandaria, or Cataclysm zones:
- More valuable fish are often found in at least one zone with a higher base skill requirement and one zone with a lower base skill requirement. The catch rate in the higher-skill zone may be greater than the catch rate in the lower-skill zone. For example, it is possible to catch Stonescale Eels off the coast of Tanaris. But the best locations for Stonescale Eels are the coasts of Blasted Lands or Swamp of Sorrows, where the skill requirement is higher (read the Catching Stonescale Eels topic for evidence).
- Catches of certain fish vary by time of day or season. The variation by time of day (known by experts as the "6 hour rule") is discussed in depth in the Variation by Time topic. Be aware that just because a source such as Thott's book says you can fish Raw Sunscale Salmon in the pools and rivers of Felwood, does not necessarily mean they can be fished at 03:00. There are also two known seasonal fish - Winter Squid and Raw Summer Bass which switch at the spring and autumn (fall) equinoxes. Squid can never be caught during the summer. Bass can never be caught during the winter. Read the Catching Winter Squid topic for more information. This rule does not appear to apply to low level zones.
- Fish Finder - Where to catch fish, showing skill required, type of water, and variations such as time of day.
- Zone Base Fishing Skill - Detailed analysis that attempts to answer the question, what fishing skill will I need to fish in a certain zone?
- Gazetteer - This topic develops a simple gazetteer that shows which fish may be caught in which zones.
- Variation by Time - Explores how catch rates for fish vary by time of day.
- Also in Getting Started: Why Fish?, Your First Catch, (Not) Catching Junk, Fishing Skill, Equipment and Pools, and Frequently Asked Questions.