WoW: Fishing Derby

Today, before heading back to Outland, I tried out something that has been on my WoW to-do list for some time: the weekly fishing contest in Stranglethorn Vale. This is an activity that’s thrust before your face as soon as you get your first point in fishing skill, by NPCs handing out flyers in Orgrimmar (and presumably in the Alliance capital as well), but what chance does a rank amateur have of winning? My fishing skill is over 300 now, close to the maximum I can get before buying more expansions, so it seemed worth at least trying out. Mind you, people who have Cataclysm can get a fishing skill over 500, but I figured that at this late date most such people had won the contest before, and gotten bored with it, and quit. Which may in fact be the case, for all I know, but the competition isn’t abandoned. I saw maybe four other people fishing, and there were probably a few others that I didn’t see. The competition was won in less than a half an hour, and at that point I was only about halfway to the goal.

The way the derby works is this: At 2:00 PM every Sunday, schools of Speckled Tastyfish suddenly appear all along the Stranglethorn coast. Schools of fish are a mechanic seen wherever there’s fishable water: they’re spots where some particular sort of fish is much more likely to be caught, visible as a circular ripple on the surface of the water. You can even make schools show up on your mini-map if you want. After a certain number of fish have been pulled out of a school, it fades away. (There are also pools of debris in some places that look similar to schools, but with bits of board and crates floating in them. Fishing in one of these yields strongboxes and other salvage.) Speckled Tastyfish are a special sort of fish that can only be caught during the derby, and apparently they disappear a few hours after being caught, so you can’t stockpile them for next week. The first person to turn in 40 of them wins the prize: a special fishing item, the title of “Master Angler”, and an Achievement. Apparently there are a few kinds of rare fish that can also only be caught in Tastyfish schools, and which can be turned in for their own special rewards regardless of whether you win. This strikes me as a clever bit of design: it gives people a motivation to try their luck even if they have no chance of winning.

Surprisingly, having a high fishing skill apparently isn’t the advantage that I assumed it would be: you can catch Tastyfish with a fishing skill of 1. The winners are, rather, the ones who can find fresh schools efficiently. Each school only yields maybe 3 Tastyfish before it’s tapped out. Mind, this doesn’t mean noobs have an equal chance. The real fishing champs are high-enough level to have fast flying mounts. (My flying mount is slow, and can only fly in Outland.)

And that’s before we get to the one really decisive factor that I wasn’t anticipating, but probably should have been: violence. On a PVP server, violence really is all-pervasive wherever Horde and Alliance players mingle, and a nice friendly fishing competition is no exception. If you’re level 85, and you see a sub-70 enemy near a Tastyfish school you want, you better believe you’re going to take a half a second out of your busy fishing schedule to kill them. It’s absurd, but that’s how little life means when everyone just respawns at the nearest graveyard.

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