I was hoping for an Arroyo Chub, but I only braved imminent death to catch this Lifer.

Species: Western Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)
Location: Santa Ana River, CA
Date: August 3, 2018

I haven’t written a #SpeciesQuest post in almost a year. My last one published in July while I was on my Fishing Across America trip, and I spent the time not fishing working on my book of the same now. This means I’m now almost two years behind on writing up each #SpeciesQuest post, but with COVID-19 in full swing and the trout bite still slow, it gives me a chance to catch up.


This little fish you’ve never heard of called an Arroyo Chub sent me to the heart of the Southern California desert en route to San Diego. It was supposed to be a quick and easy stop to catch one of the few California freshwater endemics. Alas, it was doomed from the start.

Not only did I have to park next to a sketchy-looking character on the side of the highway and travel almost a mile on foot over loose sandy soil, through a homeless camp to get to the river, I didn’t get the target fish.

First, there was garbage everywhere. It was almost landfill status, honestly, and it was depressing. That was before I even saw the dozens of tents, ramshackle cardboard and plywood structures, and broken-down vehicles that made up a veritable Hooverville there under the highway. Folks were at best aloof and at worst hostile. After seeing used needles, I immediately regretted wearing flip-flops, but it was too close to dark to double back.

Pressing on, I figured my safest course of action would involve wet-wading the river, but it was running very high. Not only was the flow too high for easy microfishing, but the water was murky.

The Santa Ana River wasn’t the most conducive to fish, but by wet-wading, I was able to access more water. Next time, I’ll come in thick rubber boots with a strap and a set of blinders.

As I waded upstream, I bumped into a very high, very toothless woman bathing in the river. I diverted back through the vegetation to avoid blindness, and came upon a small little oxbow coming off the mainstem of the river.

It was the first part of the river I’d come upon that had really fishable water, and I was rewarded for my diversion with a small fish I immediately recognized as a mosquitofish.

Darkness fell, and I wandered through the homeless camp hoping I wouldn’t be murdered before I made it back to the car. I made it, but only barely.

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#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #166 — Cortez Bonefish.

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