BY MIKE STEVENS
Lake expert chats with WON on what it means for its fishing future
IRVINE – The storms that headlined the entire month of January delivered 3,250 acre-feet of water to Irvine Lake giving the Orange County fishery a major facelift to kick off the new year. According to the Irvine Ranch Water District, that’s over a billion gallons of water added to the Lake.
The man-made, 750-acre lake was created in the 1930s and stands as the largest body of freshwater in Orange County. In more-recent decades, Irvine Lake became highly-regarded throughout the Southern California angling community as a top local spot for trophy trout, catfish, bass and crappie fishing.
The lake’s 2016 closure forced anglers into neighboring counties for their freshwater fishing outings, and the lake’s recreational future remained in question before it re-opened to a huge crowd in August of 2019. Currently, Irvine Lake is open to shoreline fishing only on Friday through Saturday, and no fishing license is required. Trout are once again being stocked weekly through the last week of February.
Western Outdoor News reached out to Berkley Fishing rep Marlon Meade who has worked closely with Irvine Lake for most of his life to get his thoughts following the arrival of all this new water.
“My buddies were out there on Friday, and I was out there a month ago for the derby and saw how low it was,” said Meade. “It came up quite a bit, and I knew it was going to happen.”
Meade is fired up about what the dramatic increase in water level could mean long term, he said it’s making it difficult for trout anglers heading out there right now.
“A lot of water is coming in, but the water is too dirty for trout fishing,” he said. “No trout were being caught the morning after a trout plant, but it looks good out there. At the derby, people were happy and it was like the old days, and the water district and county have been working well together.”
Dirty water may temporarily but the brakes on trout fishing, but according to Meade, it may be the signal the time to target catfish – and Irvine has some monsters – as they tend to get turned on when the creeks are crankin’ and the water level gets a significant increase.
He also predicted a resurgence in Irvine’s bass fishing, and made some pretty noteworthy points in illustrating why he feels that way.
“A quiet lake with no motors on it that stocks trout is fantastic,” said Meade. “Look at Lake Mission Viejo when they had those giant bass in there. Well, there hasn’t been boats on Irvine in years, and those bass are eating those trout up. There are some big bass in that lake.”
He also made the same comparison to Dixon Lake in San Diego County which does have boats but only with electric trolling motors, and for a while there that particular miniscule lake was making international headlines for the world-record caliber bass it held.
It doesn’t stop there when it comes to Meade’s takes on Irvine, either. “When that water starts coming up, people start thinking. Wait ‘til the crappie bite starts in a few weeks.”