Fishing in Stardew Valley can be a challenge for new players, and there are certain fish in the game that even make even a long-time veteran of the game swear at their keyboard and monitor, or Nintendo Switch, or anything else. If you’ve found yourself wondering how to catch catfish in Stardew Valley multiple times in early Spring, or even later, don’t worry – you’re not alone!
The most important tips to catch more catfish in Stardew Valley are:
- Upgrade to a fiberglass fishing rod ASAP (requires 1800g and fishing level 2)
- Have plenty of bait to increase hits while fishing (and therefore fishing XP, and number of catfish that strike that morning)
- Sprint for a fishing spot each day it starts raining for maximum catfish fishing time
- Avoid using hooks
We’ll dive into each of these more so you can hit your next game of Stardew and become a catfish catching monster!
How to Catch Catfish in Stardew Valley
First, understand that the catfish is one of the most challenging fish to catch in the game outside of the legendary fish, and it’s likely one of the first very challenging fish you’ll run into which means you have less skill and worse equipment – making it even harder.
Especially at early levels there is no sure fire way to catch every single catfish you hook, but taking the advice and strategies I provide will help you increase your success rate and let you become an expert on how to catch catfish in Stardew Valley.
Let’s dive in!
1. Make Sure You’re Actually In Catfish Season
In Stardew Valley Catfish only appear in the Spring and Fall seasons*, and they only appear:
- Between 6 AM to 12 AM (Midnight)
- When it is Raining
- In the early game you will only be able to find them in Rivers
If you’re fishing the Mountain Lake on a sunny Summer day at 1 AM, it doesn’t matter how enthusiastic you are, unless you have magic bait, you already have three strikes against you when it comes to fishing for catfish in Stardew Valley.
Make sure you’re fishing early before midnight, in river waters, and when it’s raining in either Spring or Fall. There are a few other options a bit later in the game, but for now this is the checklist you need.
*There are a few exceptions to this, but these are very specific situations that tend to only open up in the late game.
Exceptions to the Catfish Season Rules
- Stardew Valley catfish can also be caught in the Witch’s Swamp and Secret Woods during Spring, Summer, and Fall while it’s raining
- You can catch catfish in winter if you use a rain totem to make it “rain” the next day – it will appear to be snowing but catfish ill be available in their normal waters
- When you use magic bait
2. Upgrade From the Bamboo Fishing Rod Immediately
While the Fiberglass Rod is far from ideal, it’s head and shoulders over the simple bamboo fishing rod that you start the game with. There’s a reason Stardew Min-Max videos almost all involve fishing (those that don’t use the Stardew Clay Farming method, anyway) and that’s because it’s profitable and an early gold star catfish really moves the needle…not to mention the fishing XP.
These videos all have you selling everything to buy a fiberglass fishing rod from Willy on day three, along with bait. This is one level up as a fishing rod from the bamboo pole and the amount of space you get in you yellow beam and it slows down how quickly it bobbles up and down. In other words, it makes fishing immensely easier, and when you’re dealing with catfish, which are a very challenging fish to catch in Stardew Valley, you need every bit of help you can get.
Later in the game when you level up enough to get an iridium fishing rod, make sure to upgrade again. You’ll definitely notice the difference.
3. Don’t Aim for the Middle of the Yellow Bar
The yellow bar is the range for when you are winning vs the fish as opposed to when its outside that, you’re in danger of losing it. A pretty easy to understand mechanic, but doesn’t make it any less challenge to keep that small yellow bar on a particularly aggressive fish diving back and forth along the track.
Normally I aim for keeping the fish symbol in the middle of the yellow bar, and that’s a good strategy with most fish, but for ones who move a lot, and like to “bounce” suddenly where they go really high then suddenly drop, or really low then suddenly jump, focusing on the middle actually makes it harder to adjust.
Instead of treating catfish like other fish (and based on the erratic and challenging way its moving, you’ll know it’s a catfish) don’t focus on trying to keep the fish in the middle of the yellow because it actually becomes harder to adjust when it suddenly breaks up or down. Just keep the yellow bar on it, and once you get good and knowing the catfish’s tricks, you’ll often keep the fish token barely in the yellow bar, so when it moves you can adjust quickly.
Fights with catfish can take a very long time but as long as it’s still on the hook, there is a chance to reel it in.
4. Avoid Adding A Hook
This sounds counterintuitive – but there’s a very good logic to it. While the hooks reduce the suddenness with how a fish can move, this only works on lower to mid challenging fish. Since you can’t suddenly drop the yellow bar, or shoot it to the top, a high challenge fish like the catfish can leap above the the yellow bar and the hook actually doesn’t let you move it fast enough to keep up.
In other words, the hook, at least in my experience from over 1,000 hours playing Stardew Valley, actually makes it harder to catch a catfish, not easier. So use that slot in a fiberglass fishing rod for bait – not a hook – if you want to catch more catfish.
5. Be Patient & Level Up!
The yellow catch box when fishing gets larger and moves more smoothly with each level you gain in fishing. While the game might not tell you that you leveled up until you go to bed, you get the benefits immediately. This is why so many players notice that on that first rainy day on Day 3 that the fishing seems to get a little easier towards the end of the day than the beginning.
Because you probably leveled up once or possibly even twice. That means during the day that yellow bar increased in size and it reacted a little bit better to your controls. This is also why even if you’re an experienced player that early on in the game you’re more likely to catch catfish later in the day on that first Rainy Day 3 in Stardew Valley than earlier in the day.
So while being patient while fighting a hooked catfish is important (some you have a chance at, some will be out of your league early on), so is continuing to fish and just keep leveling up your stats to get a larger and larger yellow bar and better control to keep tilting the scales a bit more in your favor.
6. Use Fishing Boosting Foods
You won’t have these in the very beginning of the game, but there are several great fishing skill boosting foods that can give you a strong temporary boost. If you go out with a good array of these foods you can be fishing at a much higher level than you actually have from XP. Eating one of these foods can give you a huge boost in your attempts at catfish fishing in Stardew Valley.
NOTE: These buffs do not stack – so eat one, wait for the buff to wear off, then eat another afterwards
- Dish of the Sea
- Trout Soup
- Fish Taco
- Fish Stew
- Lobster Bisque
- Seafoam Pudding
- Shrimp Cocktail
- Maple Bar
Some of these foods give a little boost, some give a HUGE boost and can even virtually double the size of your fishing bar depending on your level. This definitely stacks the odds in your favor when it comes to catching catfish in Stardew Valley.
Foods that Boost Fishing in Stardew Valley
Here’s a full table to help you see which foods might be available or viable at your point in the game. The higher your level (if even temporary) the better your chances of managing to reel in those pesky hard hitting catfish!
|Time of Buff
|The classic sweet doughnut topped with a rich maple glaze.
|1 Maple Syrup, 1 Sugar, 1 Wheat Flour
|+1 Farming, +1 Fishing, +1 Mining (+225 E, +101 HP)
|See “The Queen of Sauce” Year 2, Summer 14
|Pretty salty, but boosts fishing.
|1 Rainbow Trout, 1 Green Algae
|+1 Fishing (+100 E, +45 HP)
|See “The Queen of Sauce” Year 1, Fall 14
|A perfect way to warm yourself after a cold night at sea – now say it with a Boston accent!
|1 Clam, 1 Milk
|+1 Fishing (+225 E, +101 HP)
|Willy Heart Level Three (mail)
|The classic appetizer makes an appearance in Pelican Town.
|1 Tomato, 1 Shrimp, 1 Wild Horseradish
|+1 Fishing, +1 Luck (+225 E, +101 HP)
|See “The Queen of Sauce” Year 2, Winter 20
|It smells (and tastes) delicious – I’m a fan!
|1 Tuna, 1 Tortilla, 1 Red Cabbage, 1 Mayonnaise
|+2 Fishing (+165 E, +74 HP)
|Linus Heart Level Seven (mail)
|The classic French dish of butter-soaked snails cooked to perfection.
|1 Snail, 1 Garlic
|+2 Fishing (+225 E, +101 HP)
|Willy Heart Level Five (mail)
|Dish O’ the Sea
|This’ll keep you warm in the cold sea air – I assume deep frying is involved.
|2 Sardines, 1 Hashbrowns
|+3 Fishing (+125 E, +56 HP)
|Level 3 Fishing Skill
|Smells like the sea, tastes like a solid meal for the Stardew fishermen!
|1 Crayfish, 1 Mussel, 1 Periwinkle, 1 Tomato
|+3 Fishing (+225 E, +101 HP)
|See “The Queen of Sauce” Year 2, Winter 14
|Willy’s family’s secret recipe…what could go wrong?
|1 Lobster, 1 Milk
|+3 Fishing, +50 Max Energy (+225 E, +101 HP)
|Willy Heart Level 9 and/or See the Queen of Sauce Year 2, Winter 14
|The ultimate fishing boost, as this briny pudding’s name would definitely suggest.
|1 Flounder, 1 Midnight Carp, 1 Squid Ink
|+4 Fishing (+175 E, +78 HP)
|Level 9 Fishing Skill
Video on Fishing-Boosting Foods in Stardew Valley
7. Pay Money To Cheat
If you only want the catfish to finish a community bundle, this is one of those items that the Traveling Cart (Fridays and Sundays) may randomly be selling. The Traveling Cart sells catfish in Stardew Valley for between 600g and 1,000g. If you find yourself just fed up and not getting any closer, you can pay the money to skip the effort and just grab one for that community center bundle.
There’s also a small chance this appears as a trashcan item in Spring or Fall.
Why the Stardew Valley Catfish Is So Important
The biggest and most obvious reason is that the catfish is one of the most challenging fish to catch to finish the River Fish Bundle in the Community Center. This is the most important role a catfish can fill and a reason to still pursue fishing them despite the high difficulty.
Catfish also appear in multiple potential missions. In Spring or Fall a random NPC might randomly request one catfish from the “Help Wanted” board that is posted by the calendar outside of Pierre’s store and gives a good chunk of money and 150 friendship points upon completion. This is an Item Delivery style of mission, so you lose the catfish item.
There’s also a Fishing Quest that can appear on the “Help Wanted” board outside of Pierre’s from either Demetrius or Willy that asks for anywhere from 1 to 4 catfish and you get an award of 200g per catfish and get to keep all of them, which is a nice bonus.
They can also be used for fish ponds, for tailoring and dyeing, but this is generally agreed as a waste of a rather valuable fish that brings in good income, fishing experience, and has more uses in quests. This is also a Loved gift for Willy.
Stardew Valley Catfish Guide: Parting Thoughts
Even after 1,000 plus hours of gameplay in the wonderful world of Stardew Valley, there’s no question that I still despise having to chase after those early game catfish when I’m looking to min-max a run, take on a challenge, or fill out a Community Center bundle. However, by following the advice in this article you now have the knowledge, skill, and advice needed so you now know how to catch a catfish in Stardew Valley.
Doesn’t mean one still won’t bust off the hook, even when you get up to Level 10 fishing with an iridium fishing rod, but it’s going to happen a whole lot less!
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.