The New Mayor's Handbook - Ch. 3: Gotta Catch 'em All!

So, You Want To Be The Very Best

One of the largest portions of your time in Animal Crossing will be spent catching the myriad bugs and fish you find in your town. In New Leaf, there are 72 of each, along with a brand-new category of creatures to poach; 30 deep sea creatures are waiting to be brought up from the depths of the ocean, now that your villager can gain the ability to dive and swim.

I tried to keep this post brief, as there's actually not much to catching these things, but there is a lot to know about finding them first. If you are having difficulty catching bugs and fish the best way to overcome that is practice, practice, practice. There are, however, a few concepts to keep in mind that may help you achieve your goals a little faster.

If you're looking for something in particular, try to keep your search area as wide as possible. If the area also has a habit of spawning other bugs or fish you don't care about, run near them to spook them and make them de-spawn, then move far enough away that the game respawns something in that area. If you can't move far enough away to get the game to try respawning stuff, just go in and out of a nearby building to reset everything.

Regardless of your reason for catching bugs and fish, you should be aware of what are available to you currently; If you're trying to fill out your catalog it's best not to waste time looking for something at the wrong time. If, instead, a quick buck is your goal, a smart poacher will research what the most valuable bugs and fish are at that moment to ensure the greatest return on investment for time spent.

It's also important to keep in mind that the island and the mainland have different rarities for things, so what may be nauseatingly common when fishing on the beaches in your town could be very rarely seen when fishing on the island (same goes for bugs and deep sea life, of course).

To check what is available at a specific date and time, Thonky's New Leaf site has a very useful webapp.

Bug Catching

Bugs, for my money, can be some of the most frustrating things to hunt in the series. Basically, bugs will more or less mind their own business until they notice you. Once that happens, there are a few things they will do to get away which is determined by how you found them. For the most part they simply disappear, but some will very quickly run away, and a small subset will actually attack you.

Two general purpose tips for you - Bugs, like all things in Animal Crossing, live their life on a timetable. The vast majority of insects are nocturnal, so don't expect to catch too many during the day. Also, bugs will notice you sooner the faster you move - you can ensure you move very slowly by holding down the A button while you have the net out, which prepares your villager to swing the net when you release the A button. This is also useful for situations where the game may interpret you pressing the A button as a request to talk to a neighbor, or dive off a cliff using your swanky new wetsuit...

For a list of the dates, times, and locations you can find every bug in the game, check the New Leaf Wikispaces page.

  • Flying
    These are far and away the easiest bugs to catch. They're things like butterflies, moths, fireflies, mosquitoes, and honeybees. Even when they see you, their response is to flutter slightly faster in a generally-opposite direction. You can just walk up to them and catch them. The only time you'd need to sneak is if they're close to a body of water, or a cliff.

    One note - Mosquitoes will come looking for you around dusk. You'll hear an annoying buzzing noise, and if you look closely you'll see a black speck heading for you (sometimes easier to just look for the shadow on the ground, which is the same size regardless of insect).

    Fireflies, dragonflies, and a few others will be found near bodies of water; the bulk of the butterflies in the game will be found near flowers (some want specific flowers); and moths will, as one might expect, congregate around street lights, or say the signage light attached to Re-Tail's deal of the day board.

  • On Trees
    The sort that hang out on the trunk of a tree, waiting to see if you notice them before they fly off. Examples of these are nearly all beetles, but there are some nocturnal bugs like Oak Silk Moths and Lantern Flies who have this same behavior.

    These are the ones which require the most patience, precision bug recognition, and an ability to play professional caliber "red-light/green-light". Some of these bugs in Animal Crossing are so eager to flee from you that if you are moving at full walk speed and they are on a tree directly east, south, or west of you, they can be triggered to run away before they actually appear on screen. If you watch them carefully you'll actually notice these bugs have a way of signaling to you that they're agitated. Most will begin to wiggle back and forth, the faster they wiggle the closer they are to fleeing. Some, mostly the night bugs, will open their wings in preparation for take-off. If you see a bug do this, stop moving and wait for them to go back to normal before continuing to advance.

    Palm trees and deciduous trees attract different bugs, but tree stumps also have their own set of bugs, meaning you'll have to cut down some of your trees and then just leave the stumps around if you're planning to complete your catalog. Beetles who hang out on palm trees are all very highly valued (between 6,000 and 12,000 bells), so if you happen to see one, do everything in your power to catch it.

  • In Trees
    Bugs that live in trees require you to shake the trees to get them out. The most common ones you'll run into are spiders (which will descend down on a silk thread before crawling back up into the treetops) and very angry bees.

    Bees can be very aggravating, but there is one very solid trick for catching them. When you see the beehive fall out of the tree, immediately RUN north until you have enough visibility to see to the south edge of the screen, then bring up the inventory screen. While your inventory is open, the bees will be paused, so you can switch to your bug-catching net safely. Your character automatically pivots to face the south when you equip anything, so you will unpause the bees while facing in the proper direction. At that point it's all a matter of timing to catch the bees at the moment they catch up to you.

  • Under Rocks
    To find these bugs simply hit rocks with your shovel. Occasionally you'll see something shoot out the opposite side from where you struck the rock. Immediately run over and net it (remember, d-pad left and right to switch between tools without needing to open the menu). Pillbugs are the most common, but you can also find centipedes and a few others, season-permitting.

    If you let a bug of this category get too far away from you they'll dig underground and disappear, so try to keep on them once they've been uncovered.

  • On Flowers
    A lot of bugs will show up hanging out on flowers, usually flowers that are the same color as them. Similarly to the bugs that hang out on trees, these will fly off if you get too close while moving too quickly, and indicate they're about to do so by revealing their wings or changing their posture. Mantises and ladybugs are common.

    I strongly urge you to not hunt these for anything other than the initial catch for catalog/museum purposes, because hitting flowers with nets is a great way to ruin your flowers.

  • On/In the Water
    A handful of bugs choose to be absolute jerks and make you stand around the edge of a pond like an idiot, waiting for them to get into the very short range of your bug-catching net. Pondskaters and
    Water Beetles are common, and fortunately the Honey Badgers of the bug world - Nothing you do can scare them off, so feel free to wail away at the pond in blind rage when you sit there for 30 minutes because that stupid water beetle is never directly adjacent to you AND simultaneously above-water.

  • On the Ground
    Probably the greatest variety of bugs, next to those that perch on tree trunks, are the ones that just scurry underfoot in grassy areas. Beetles, roaches, ants, locusts and grasshoppers, even some spiders can be seen just to your left, doing whatever it is bugs do when they're awake.

    Moving slowly will help, as will approaching them from behind (when the bug's facing is something that can be determined, anyway). If you scare one of these, 90% of the time they'll still actually be on-screen, but now they'll be actively trying to get away from you. If they make it to a cliff, a body of water, or off the screen, they win and you lose - so try your best to corral them away from any of those three when possible.

    As a warning, note that Tarantulas and Scorpions will NOT run away from you when they see you. They will instead go into a defensive posture for a moment and then jump at you and chase you. If they touch you, your character will be knocked out and wake up outside their home (thus resetting the current bugs and fish that have spawned in your town).

  • Underground
    I can think of one bug that was in previous games (which I believe is in New Leaf) that was found underground, so I felt like I should list it: Mole Crickets will make a grating, chirping sound when they're nearby, even though they won't be visible at all. You'll have to begin digging to find them, and once you do they'll begin to scurry away in the hopes that they can make it to water, or put enough distance between you and them that they have time to burrow back into the earth.

  • Special Conditions
    A handful of bugs exist that can only be caught if you prepare the proper conditions.

    Flies require trash (or rotten turnips) to be left out in the field before they'll appear. You can also buy and raise rafflesia at the island shop, but that's a heck of a lot more work than just leaving the next can you fish out of the ocean on the ground next to you.

    Though I mentioned that ants can be found just walking around on the ground, they're significantly more common as a mass of black dots crawling on turnips.

    Fleas will be seen occasionally on your animal neighbors. They make a springy sound, and show up as little brownish-black dots jumping off the back of the afflicted. To catch one just hold down A then walk up to the villager and hit them with your net. Your neighbor will thank you for cleaning them of the nuisance, which is an indirect way of saying "I'm not angry you hit me with a net."

    Hermit Crabs are only available on the island. They look like a conch shell on the beach, but as you get near them they'll jump up in the air and begin to walk towards the water to get away from you.

    As mentioned earlier, Moths show up near light sources at night - the more lights, the better your chance of seeing them. Usually the one in front of the Re-Tail sign is popular enough if you need to find one.

    A final note - Cockroaches do show up in your home if your house is messy, but as of City Folk (the previous Animal Crossing) they are no longer catalog bugs, but simply an indicator that your house is dirty and you should clean it.


Fishing was, until New Leaf, the main moneymaker in Animal Crossing. Fishing uses the very common mechanic of tossing your lure out and watching the bobber dip. When it dips fully, press A, and if you're fast enough you'll reel in whatever took the bait.

Fish are primarily categorized by shadow size and body of water they're found in. Rarity, time of day and season are just as important for fish as they are for bugs, so be sure to check out the Wikispaces page for a list of all fish and their info.

In general, the only tip worth mentioning for catching fish is to listen, not look, for the time to press A. The sound will complete before the animation does, even though the timer which determines whether the fish got away or not is based on the animation. If you train yourself to pay attention to the sound not the animation, then, you wind up getting a few precious moments of time more to press A than you otherwise would have.

It can also help to keep in mind that fish will bite somewhere between one and five times, and although I haven't felt motivated enough to actually figure out the percentages, I would say the majority of fish bite on the third time (if you twisted my arm, I'd say the order of most-to-least common times to bite is third, second, fifth, fourth, first but I'll reiterate, that's just guesstimation). I have never seen a fish that does not bite on the fifth time, though - so if that shark has faked you out four times, you can expect it will definitely be biting the next time.

For the purposes of grouping the list below will describe the different bodies of water fish are found in, what shadow types will show up there, and which ones to care about.

  • Rivers
    Rivers can have anything from tiny all the way up to very large fish, as well as eel shadows (large and thin). The ones to care about would be the small (for angelfish, 4k bells), and very large (for arapaima, 15k bells). I tend to ignore large size shadows, despite things like arowana and dorado, because you get so many black bass and they're worth so little money.

    Rivers are the second most varied, next to oceans, so spend some time pulling up every shadow you see during June and July, as about 80 - 90% of your catalog can be caught during these two months.

  • River Pools
    These are the portions of the river that swell around a bend, and are home to specific fish not found in the main body of the river. There aren't many fish that are specific to river pools, but the big shadows tend to be valuable, so it would be in your best interest to check them out.

    Note that even though certain fish are spawned in certain bodies of water, the rivers and river pools are connected and fish do swim about on their own, so some river fish may show up in pools and some pool fish may show up in the main river body.

  • River Mouths & Waterfalls
    A handful of fish will show up specifically in the area of a river that feeds into the ocean, below the waterfall. Similarly, certain fish will spawn directly underneath the waterfall that feeds to river from the east. All of these fish are rare, but none are particularly valuable (3,800 bells for a char is the highest they get).

    Fun fact: Salmon will show up at the base of the waterfall where the river feeds into the ocean during the first half of September, but then for the second half they will populate the river body itself. This is Nintendo's adorable attempt at simulating salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

  • Oceans
    Oceans are where you'll find the majority of your fish, and the steadiest source of high-value fish to boot. Every shadow is available here, from the tiniest to the shark shadows - huge-size shadows that also have fins poking out of the top of the water's surface. If you see a fin, stop what you're doing and go catch it. Finned fish range in value from 6,000 bells up to 15,000, with the majority of them being worth over 10,000 bells.

    If you're having trouble finding sharks to catch, check the island, as they're all less rare there than on the mainland. It also helps to ensure you're following the fundamentals of feng shui, a topic we'll discuss in a future post.

  • Ponds
    Ponds don't have anything worthwhile in them, except if you're trying to finish your catalog. Frogs and crawfish (you can tell the difference between them in the pond because frogs will be letting out a croaking noise when you're nearby), as well as tadpoles and killifish. None are worth more than a few hundred bells.

  • The Coelacanth
    Usually referred to as the Holy Grail of Animal Crossing fish, the coelacanth is only available from 4pm to 9am during rainy or snowy weather. Some argue that they actually appear as a shadow the approximate size of a shark shadow, but without the fin (so actually very slightly larger than a Sea Bass shadow), but I haven't seen proof of this so I would recommend you cast at any large-size shadows you see if you're searching for one. They are of the highest rarity level, and run very quickly after biting, so patience is a necessity.

Deep-Sea Diving

Deep sea diving is new to New Leaf, and as such I have to admit I still am learning the ropes of it a bit. From my experience, these creatures can be grouped kind of like a fish/bug hybrid; there are tiny, small, regular, large, and very large shadows, and there are three main ways that these creatures will react to your presence.

To be able to dive you must first go to the island. Granny will occasionally have a wetsuit as one of the three things on her for-sale table, and she sells them for 40 medals (island currency). Do the tour minigames until you've amassed enough medals to pay for a wetsuit if you'd like to be able to dive back on the mainland. Otherwise you can just talk to Lloid outside the island hut to borrow a wetsuit for diving in. Press A to do a breaststroke, and press Y to dive. The longer you're underwater the faster you'll swim, but this also means the faster you swim the sooner you're going to have to come up for air, so keep that in mind.

The major trick to catching deep sea creatures is to learn how to measure the depth to the ocean floor. Fortunately, this is a consistent value, so it's the sort of thing you can just become accustomed to. Besides that, learn to swim quickly (press the A button in the proper rhythm to have your villager fluidly continue their breaststroke for maximum speed), and learn to keep an eye out for those bubbles on the surface which indicate a newly-spawned creature.

  • Unmoving
    Regardless of how aggressively you approach these, they will sit and wait for you to grab them. A good catch to practice how far and fast you descend when diving. Unfortunately these really aren't worth anything, so don't bother catching them for money.

  • Steadily Moving
    These are the majority of the creatures in the ocean. They will pick a direction and head that way at a speed determined by their species until you dive down after them, at which point they'll head in the opposite direction of you. The best way to catch these is to be as close as possible to them during your initial dive, as any subsequent attempts to dive after them will take long enough you very likely won't be able to catch up to them before you have to surface again.

    The larger the shadow, the more valuable the prize (giant spider crab are 10,000 bells).

  • Erratically Moving
    These move more like insects, randomly changing direction, not to mention starting and stopping their progression as they swim about, making it very difficult to actually catch them if you don't dive right down on top of them the first time.

    Fortunately, once you get one for your museum and catalog, you really ought not bother with them.

Another 3,000-something word post... And I thought this would be short. Bug and fish catching is one of the core components of the series, and with a third activity in the mix I guess I was being pretty naive. Oh well.

The next post will discuss the transitory animal folks you'll run into (as opposed to the villagers and permanent store owners we discussed in Chapter 2).

Thanks for reading all this way, and let me know if you have any questions or comments as always!