The only tetra species native to the United States is the Mexican Tetra, a species found across the American Southwest.

Species: Mexican Tetra (Astyanax mexicanus)
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Date: August 17, 2018

Several weeks before I finally caught one of these fish, I ran into Mexican Tetras in New Mexico’s Pecos River. I could clearly identify them, and I was frustrated by their relative difficulty in the shallow, clear water.

After an undisclosed and arguably embarrassing amount of time failing to catch one, I left Roswell and headed towards San Antonio.

In San Antonio, I found them at a small park in a barely trickling creek that connected to the San Antonio River. The river was an archipelago of isolated puddles connected by a tiny stream. Most of these puddles contained just a few gallons of water, but one was quite large. It was maybe the size and depth of an above-ground swimming pool, and apart from a few sunfish and a very skittish bass, it contained loads of what I suspected were Mexican Tetras.

The sun was low in the Texas sky, and the little creek was surrounded by thick vegetation that blocked out most of the ambient light. I couldn’t quite identify the fish, but I worked my tanago hook in the three-foot pool at the roiling school of silvery micros.

It took me about half an hour to get the fish to bite. They wouldn’t touch my bait on the bottom, and the isolated condition of their pool had them acting out of sheer terror.

I did eventually get one, only to find another spot in San Antonio a few days later loaded with Mexican Tetras that were much more aggressive. I got a ton of them in short order at my second stop.

At this point in my Tech School, I’d already hurt my elbow on a training exercise through an obstacle course that required me to jump up to a chest-level pipe. I smashed my elbow on the pipe and then proceeded to finish the hours-long course — a decision I quickly regretted when my elbow swelled to twice its size and became immensely painful.

I was diagnosed with bursitis and didn’t sleep much for the next two weeks, despite the minimally effective topical pain cream I was given after waiting for hours in the military hospital, SAMC.

After three visits to the ER over two weeks of immense pain and relative disability, I finally went Rogue and stopped at a private urgent care center, where they drained the fluid on the joint and started my process towards healing.

I never stopped fishing, though, and I’m sure it was hilarious to watch me fish with one arm while having the other in a sling, but it didn’t prevent me from catching Mexican Tetras and more than 100 tilapia at a spot near downtown San Antonio.

So while the first two attempts at catching a Mexican Tetra proved rough, it wasn’t long before I was catching them with one hand tied behind my back. Well, in front of my chest, but you know.

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#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #189 — Variegated Platy.

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