Remember the one that got away? Not this time! Rainbow, brook and brown trout, blue and channel catfish, bass, wipers, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, sturgeon and others thrive in abundance in Irvine Lake -- so even if one slips off the hook, there are plenty of opportunities to catch your limit.
Over the decades, the lake has developed into an excellent fishery and ensures a healthy fish habitat for years to come. There are also guided fishing tours to help you find the catch you're looking for.
And because Irvine Lake is privately owned and operated, NO FISHING LICENSE IS REQUIRED! And don't forget -- our bait and tackle store caters to everything you need for your fishing expedition.
By Steve Carson
The key to catching all species of trout at Irvine Lake is ultra-light line. For bait anglers, it is important to never use anything heavier than 4-pound test clear monofilament. If the fish are acting finicky, or are under heavy pressure during weekend or holiday periods, use 2-pound test line.
Using ultra-light line will mean a few big ones may get away. Set your drag loose and keep your rod tip high to protect your line. The dramatically increased number of bites you will get will make up for any losses.
Casting with small metal lures such as Krocodiles or Kastmasters can be done with 4-pound test clear monofilament or fluorocarbon line, but tossing small plastics like Berkley Atomic Tubes and Power Trout Worms should be done with 2-pound line. Trollers can use up to 6-pound line when surface trolling with Rapalas or other lures, and 6-pound leaders work well when trolling with lead-core line.
Bait fishing at Irvine Lake traditionally means Power Bait, and Gulp! Trout Dough. Exactly what makes fish prefer one color over another is hard to say. Many Irvine regulars have a virtual supermarket selection of bait colors in their tackle box.
Top colors last season in Power Bait were the always-reliable chartreuse, along with yellow, rainbow and white. In the Gulp! Trout Dough, best colors last season were chunky cheese, marshmallow cluster, and chunky chartreuse.
Whenever visibility is lessened due to rainy conditions, the "white lightning" color alone or mixed with a contrasting color has been deadly. A favorite trick of the lake regulars is to roll the Power Bait or Gulp! Trout Dough into an elongated worm or grub shape instead of a simple ball.
There are times when the fish simply want plain, unadorned nightcrawlers. If the crawlers are very big, cut them in half. Inflating nightcrawlers with air so that they float up off the bottom catches a lot more fish.
LEADERS AND HOOKS
As previously mentioned, bait leaders should be very light. Using the invisible Berkley 100-Percent Fluorocarbon material can give an additional edge. Under clear-water conditions, bait leaders can be in the 12 to 18-inch range. If muddy conditions limit underwater visibility, shorten bait leaders up to no more than 6 or 8 inches in length.
By far the most popular bait rig is a 1/8 ounce sliding sinker on the main line, with either a small snap swivel or Carolina-keeper to keep the sinker above the hook. Sometimes the ultra-slow sinking speed of a water-filled “floating sinker” [casting bubble] will tempt finicky trout.
Under normal conditions, a size #16 or #18 treble hook works well with Power Bait, or when combining different baits together on one hook. With live nightcrawlers, a #8 or #10 single hook works best.
MINI PLASTICS AND MORE
The past few seasons have seen many anglers forego natural bait completely. One of the most effective being Berkley Mice Tails, which replicate the “power mouse” rig that previously had to be put together by the angler. Best all-around color last season was the white head/pink tail, while the fluorescent red head/chartreuse tail was best in stained water, and the natural head/fluorescent red tail got the nod in clear water.
The Berkley Gulp! Pinched Crawlers in both floating and sinking versions are also extremely good; no doubt the heavy garlic scent is the key. Best choice for clear or all-around conditions is the natural color, and the chartreuse for stained conditions. Some savvy experts add a Gulp! Salmon Egg for contrasting color.
Easiest of the rigging methods with the above baits is "split-shot style". Simply tie on a #10 to #14 fine wire hook. Then squeeze on a small splitshot sinker about 18 inches above the line. The sliding-sinker rig as used with Power Bait also works well. The secret is again using the lightest possible monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Using 4-pound will work, but the real trick is dropping down to 2-pound test line.
Another hot rigging method is well-known in the bass fishing world, and is called as "drop-shotting". With the sinker on the bottom, a hook is tied between 6 and 36 inches up the line, which allows a floating Power Trout Worm or Gulp! Minnow to appear "suspended" above the bottom.
The 3-inch Power Trout Worms have been phenomenal trout producers for the past several season, and can also be fished using the rigs listed above, or just like a real worm under a bobber. Use a regular bobber, and let the bait hang anywhere from 3 to 4 feet under it if the fish are near the surface. A rarely practiced secret trick is to use a "slip bobber" that allows the Power Trout Worm or sinking Pinched ‘Crawler to be suspended at any depth, even in deep water. Top colors are orange peel or chartreuse.
The Berkley Atomic Tubes or Berkley Atomic Teasers can be fished alone or under a bobber. One of the hottest tips is to take a 2-inch piece of Power Trout Worm or Gulp! in a contrasting color, and use it as a "trailer" on the hook of the Atomic Tube.
The Atomic Teasers come with the trailer already attached. The tiny tubes should also be fished on the lightest possible line. Last year's hot colors are white/orange and chartreuse/orange, but the best choice changes from day to day.
Flatlining is the overwhelming trolling choice at Irvine, although a minority of anglers do well with either downrigger or leadcore line approaches. Fishing is often good enough that you can simply drag a lure behind the boat and catch fish, but the savvy angler will stagger 2 or 3 lines at different lengths behind the boat.
Trolling in an “S” pattern alternately speeds up and slows down the lures, and pulls them through a lot of water that the boat did not go over, which presents the lures to “unspooked” fish. Rapalas and similar plugs should generally be trolled at 1.2 to 2.1 mph, although jaded brown trout sometimes react to a lure zipping along at 2.5 to 3.0 mph, and some soft plastics should be presented at 1.1 mph or even slower.
The workhorse trolling lure here is the firetiger-color Rapala Countdown CD03 or CD05, and the new X-Rap Countdown XRCD05 in red/chartreuse showed promise at the end of last season. When the fish want a bit more wiggle the Rapala Ultra-Light Shad ULS04 or the even smaller Ultra-Light Crank ULC03 in firetiger or clown colors, and when inland steelhead are in the mix, a little hot pink or blue added to the color choices seems to help. By the time late spring rolls around, Jointed Rapala J05’s in brook trout or brown trout colors can trigger bites from jaded fish.
Downrigger or leadcore line trollers sometimes use the same lures as above, but more often go for metal, with the cop-car or bikini-color Luhr Jensen Needlefish being the majority choice, occasionally trailing a flashy Jensen Trout/Kokanee Dodger. Downriggers are usually set at 12 to 25 feet, with leadcore line aficionados usually dragging 3 to 6 colors of the stuff.
SCENTS AND FLAVORINGS
Many anglers swear by certain scents or flavorings to attract more strikes. Some home-made formulas like licorice and vanilla are good for masking "human scent" that can turn fish off. First and foremost, all anglers should be sure that their hands are completely free of repulsive scents like gasoline, sunscreen, or perfumes.
The Gulp Alive! Spray was shown to be a phenomenal producer last season. Best scents were the garlic or crawdad flavors, applied to literally everything from trolling lures to live nightcrawlers.
Historically one of the most productive scents has been the liquid Berkley Trout Dip. Use the green "garlic" flavor on nightcrawlers, the yellow "corn" flavor on Gulp! Trout Dough and Power Bait, along with the red "salmon egg" flavor on trolling and casting lures.
Shorebound anglers can do well off the point at Trout Island, all along the west shoreline and near the docks. Trollers can also investigate the Santiago Flats, Rocky Point, Sierra Cove and the dam buoy line.
Above all, be flexible, the fish can really move around a lot. If you don't get any bites within about 45 minutes, and nobody around you is catching anything, move to another location.
There are huge channel and blue catfish in Irvine Lake so anglers should fish with heavy spin combos and line in the 15 to 20 pound class. Catfish feed heavily in the shallow portions of the lake and a good bite could take place at any time of the day or night.
The top choice for catfish bait is chunks of mackerel. Anglers also report catching heavy limits of whiskerfish on night crawlers, chicken liver and shrimp. Adding catfish scent to any kind of cut bait will increase your odds of catching fish. Fish with a big hook in the number 2/0 to 5/0 size and let the catfish run off a little with the bait in its mouth before you strike hard on the fish. Fly lining, sliding egg sinker rigs and a double hook setup are all effective when catfish put on the feed bag.
Hot spots for catching catfish include: the west shore, boat dock cove, Sierra Cove and in Santiago Flats.
Bass fishing in Irvine Lake is restricted to "Catch and Release" fishing only. The lake offers anglers good bass fishing and it is hoped that the conservation program in place will rebuild this fishery to make it one of the Southland's better largemouth bass fishing lakes.
Bass are caught all along shore line cover of the lake and a wide variety of techniques, lures and plastics are used by bass anglers who frequent the lake regularly. The lake record stands at 14 pounds, 7 ounces and this catch was made back in the 1950's. The current strain of bass found in Irvine Lake is a cross between Northern and Florida bass.
Good bass fishing can be enjoyed along the west shore, in Sierra Cove, throughout Santiago Flats and off Rocky Point. Anglers are asked to fish only with artificial lures to assist in helping to bring back a staple bass population to Irvine Lake.