I returned to Skyrim for the fishing, but the wild adventures I had are what really reeled me back in

Skyrim Anniversary Edition
(Image credit: Bethesda)

I used to be an adventurer like you until I took a fishing rod in my hand. Now, I'm standing by the water's edge in Skyrim reeling in Catfish, Cyrodilic Spadetails, and, more often than not, buckets, lanterns, and the occasional troll skull. In fact, I pull in so many useless, immediately disposable items, that the riverbank is starting to look like a lost property box in a Whiterun inn. I just wanted to enjoy what is otherwise one of my favorite side activities in the world of video games, but instead, I'm turning into a public menace who litters iron helmets and tankards every which way to lighten the load. 

It isn't until I refer back to my trusty copy of Line and Lure, the new in-game instructional fishing book written by one Aland Sea-Bird, that I realize why I'm catching so many empty wine bottles. There are only a finite number of fish you can catch each game day - as evidenced by the splashes that appear on the water's surface. This is one example of how fishing in Skyrim is far more restrictive than I ever expected it to be. It may not be the best angling minigame I've ever experienced, but it very much doesn't put an end to my adventurer days. With the promise of completing new quests that put my fishing rod to the test, I got swept up in a series of bizarre occurrences and hilarious moments that are far more memorable than the act of fishing itself. 

Hook, line, and sinker

Skyrim Anniversary Edition

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Returning to the opening pages of Line and Lure, Sea-Bird also writes that you should wield a fishing rod in Skyrim like you would a weapon. "Get a feel for its balance and weight," Sea-Bird states. "It must become an extension of your body and mind." It makes sense, given that you do have to equip this new tool like a sword, but I didn't think I'd actually end up using it in combat half as much as I did. 

After moseying down from my humble abode of Lakeview manor, I stumble upon the perfect fishing spot to cast my line. It's a very misty day, and my view of the horizon is obscured by fog settling over the river. In the distance, I see a dark object on the water's surface that seems to be moving gradually closer. I can't quite make out what I'm seeing as I continue reeling in fish, but it's definitely not supposed to be there. 

Unlike other open-world games that include fishing, you can't just go up to any old body of water and cast a line in Skyrim. Instead, you have to find designated spots that have fishing equipment in order to begin. Helpfully, many merchants will stock maps that show you the location of fishing spots, but for such an expansive world with so much freedom to explore, it's a shame you can't just settle down by a river or stream of your own choosing and get stuck right in. When you actually go to fish, you're also put into a fixed position in first-person, so you can't move your field of view and admire all of the surroundings either side of you. While these set spots often offer up a rather picturesque scene of different parts of Skyrim, I still can't help but wish I was at liberty to move around, even just a little. 

Skyrim Anniversary Edition

(Image credit: Bethesda)

If I could move, I'd probably be able to make out what was approaching me. Like a scene plucked straight from a horror movie, it eventually dawns on me that what I'm seeing on the periphery of my fishing rod is in fact someone rising up from the water. Why on earth are they just casually walking (yes, walking) through the river like it's a perfectly natural thing to do? My curiosity gets the better of me, and I abandon my fishing spot to investigate. 

Before I know it, I'm face-to-face with an elven novice necromancer in the middle of the river. Still gripping my rod, I recall the words of Sea-Bird. If I should wield my rod like I would a sword, "swinging it this way and that", now is the perfect time to put that directly into practise. As it turns out, the rod makes for quite a useful little weapon when enemies pop up, and I proceed to take out a bandit, a nearby Mudcrab, and that one necromancer who emerged from the water with little resistance. 

I can't say I love how fishing works in Skyrim, but I still find myself thoroughly enjoying my angling escapades thanks to the random encounters like these. Bethesda's fantasy RPG, with its fantastical creatures, unexpected instances, and endless, engrossing side quests delivers what feels like a living, breathing world. It offers up the kind of experience you can get entirely lost in, and you never know quite what will happen next. This element of surprise that courses through Tamriel as I explore manages to catch me off guard time and again during fishing sessions. The world takes what would have otherwise been a peaceful and rather humdrum pursuit, and transforms it into the platform for several wild and often hilarious little side adventures. 

Fishing rod turned lethal weapon 

"Am I really hitting a dragon with a fishing rod, right now? Me… the Dragonborn who's trained in the art of magic? Surely this isn't how it was meant to be."

There are thankfully new quests introduced at the Riften fishery that give me the incentive I need to take up my fishing rod in the first place. These quests present you with the challenge of catching select fish that can be caught in specific weather conditions or locations. The fishery workers also give you bounties to fulfil - one, for example, tasks me with catching a Goldfish for a little girl who's after a pet in Whiterun, while another gets me to reel in a Glassfish for an apothecary merchant who wants to create a potion. All of the quests are quite simplistic, but they encourage me to go fishing in all kinds of different locations across Skyrim where yet more random instances liven up my fishing experiences. 

In one drastic scenario, I cast my line only to be interrupted by an unexpected visit from a dragon. The scaly, fire-breathing foe also ends up feeling the mighty wrath of the end of my line and I just have to laugh at the pure absurdity of the scene unfolding before me. Am I really hitting a dragon with a fishing rod, right now? Me… the Dragonborn who's trained in the art of magic? Surely this isn't how it was meant to be. Can I ever truly escape the danger and the chaos of this world to enjoy a breather from it all? Or must I forever be destined to face the threats that roam the lands… even when I'm fishing? Alas, so it must be. But it sure makes for one very exciting tale to tell my housecarl back home. 

Before the time of rods and reels, Skyrim would have you catching fish by diving into the water and directly interacting with them, which, funnily enough, is still the easiest and most proficient way of catching fish. In all honesty, the only real perk of the minigame is having the chance to reel in some fantastic new jewellery items. I may be a little disappointed with fishing itself, but I've come to appreciate that sometimes how fun the fishing is isn't what's important. For Skyrim, it's all about the bizarre encounters and the adventures you have along the way that matters. And mine are off the scale.  

Looking to try out this new pastime for yourself? Here's how to fish in Skyrim Anniversary Edition.  

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.