When it comes to freshwater fishing, Irvine Lake in southeast Orange County is likely the most-visited spot in all of Southern California. Usually thought of as a “pay to play” trout lake, Irvine is a 700-acre impoundment that boasts an extremely diverse year-round fishery with a thriving population of resident species.
Irvine Lake is among the world’s most heavily stocked trout waters, with over 200,000 pounds of several species of trout scheduled for this season. The stocking schedule puts an average of 5,000 pounds of trout a week in the lake from late October to early May, although deep-trolling experts manage to catch some nice holdover trout almost all year long.
The emphasis is on plenty of fish to catch, rather than just a few giant-size trout. The majority of stockings will consist of beautiful wild-raised Calaveras rainbows in the 1 to 8 pound class. A liberal sprinkling of 8 to 12 pound lunkers will be put in, along with some bonus stockings of trophy trout over 15 pounds during peak holiday periods.
An exciting addition for the past few seasons has been the addition of steelhead in the stocking mix. Mostly running in the 2 to 6-pound class, the drag-sizzling steelies leave no room for doubt as to what species is on the end of your line. This season’s steelhead stocking allocation will be 30,000 pounds of the “silver bullets”.
Just to keep things interesting, other exotics this season will include brook trout, brown trout, and the most popular new addition has been the “California Gold”-strain of rainbow trout.
Power Bait is the overwhelming choice for Irvine Lake trouters or catfish, especially those fishing from shore. Inflated nightcrawlers also claim their share, and Berkley virtually formulated their “Trout Dip” scent for Irvine Lake’s trout anglers. The key to catching trout on any kind of bait is ultra-light line, with 4-pound or even 2-pound line and leaders being standard.
A cult following has sprung up around tiny plastic baits like Micro Power Worms, Power Nymphs and Power Tubes, cast out on ultra-light tackle. Trollers also score with Rapala CD5, CD3 and the tiny new CD1 in firetiger and orange colors.
Favorite spots for shorecasters include the west shore, Trout Island and boat dock cove. Boaters troll or cast at the Santiago Flats, Berkley Springs, Sierra Cove and along the dam buoy line.
Lake records for the various trout species are: rainbow trout- 22.55 pounds; brown trout- 9.30 pounds; brook trout- 10.30 pounds; cut-bow trout- 11.69 pounds; steelhead- 7.60 pounds.