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Irvine Lake catfish season opener is Friday night

June 9, 2010 |  2:51 pm

Soon Lee of Garden Grove landed this 15 pound blue catfish on a scrounger head while shorefishing on the East bank. Lee released the fish after the photo.

Here's this week's Irvine Lake fishing report, written by veteran angler Steve Carson:

Summertime is catfish time at Irvine Lake, says Jimmy Getty at the Pro Shop. "Our annual catfish season opener will be this Friday night, June 11," Getty said. "A 10,000 pound plant of catfish just went into the lake [Wednesday afternoon], and it included 1,000 pounds of the better-grade 5- to 10-pound whiskerfish, in addition to 9,000 pounds of plump 'eating-size' 2- to 3-pounders. All of the cats had beautiful coloration; they looked like river fish."

Getty continued: "Starting on Friday, Irvine Lake will be open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, and starting on Thursday, June 17, the lake will be open until 11 p.m. on Thursday nights. Starting on Tuesday, June 15, the lake will be closed on Tuesdays for the rest of the summer."

General Manager Dave Noyes added: "We are continuing with our trophy blue catfish release policy, which requires that all blue catfish over 20 pounds be released after being weighed at the dock, and the lucky angler will receive a free lake pass. This season we will allow anglers to catch and release crappie, but 'culling' will not be allowed. That means that once the crappie is on your stringer or in your fish basket, it can’t be released or 'swapped' for a larger one. As always, all bass species [largemouth and wipers] must be released."

The hottest bite this week has been for anglers skilled (or lucky) enough to find the ravenous schools of hybrid striped bass (aka sunshine bass, or wipers). One angler reported getting into a 'tuna-like foamer' at Santiago Flats, and released over 80 fish in the 3-pound category.

The trick is to locate balls of shad on a fish finder, and either randomly cast out top-water baits or Scroungers, or drop down with jerk shads. The schools are suspended at approximately the 30-foot level over 50 feet of water.

Crappie anglers were doing well, and the best is yet to come for those who set out a floating lantern during night-fishing sessions. Legendary angler Marlon Meade of the Irvine Lake Pro Team reported, "We are really whacking them while drifting in the afternoon at the flats using white Atomic Tubes and 2-inch Gulp! Minnow Grubs."

Although catfish action has been decent on 2- to 5-pound channels, catfish chasers have been waiting all year for the opportunity at the "night bite." Stringers of eating-size channels can be caught on small strips of mackerel, or commercial baits like Gulp! catfish dough and catfish chunks. Lunker hunters who want to tap into Irvine’s population of monster blue catfish to 50 pounds or more should stick with large mackerel chunks or whole mackerel heads.    

Largemouth bass anglers are also doing very well, but a change in tactics may be in order on any given day. Some days the fish are holding on structure, while other days they leave the shoreline to gorge on shad schools in open water. Numerous good catches of bass in the 2- to 6-pound class were reported on plastics, top-waters, spinner baits, and jerk baits.     

Trout in the 2- to 3-pound range are still readily biting deep-drifted baits, or trolled Luhr Jensen Needlefish lures behind three to seven colors of leadcore line. Plenty of bluegill and redear sunfish are biting for anglers soaking meal worms, Gulp! Crickets, or wax worms in shallow brushy areas. The key is using a tiny hook no larger than size 10 or 12. 

The lake level is dropping steadily a few inches per week. The road to Trout Island should emerge and be usable by mid-July, with the Kids Lagoon going back into operation shortly thereafter.   

From now until the end of summer, Irvine Lake is celebrating the "Super Saver Mondays" program. On Mondays only, adult admission will be $11; children ages 4-12 are $7; and motorboat rentals are $35.  

Outstanding catches of the week included:

-- Soon Lee of Garden Grove, 15-0 blue catfish (released) on a Scrounger at the east shore.
-- Chris Mason of Irvine, 6-1 largemouth bass (released) on a Senko at the flats.
-- Paul Dukewinge of Santa Ana, 4-4 steelhead on a night crawler at the flats.
-- Bob Calhoun of Rancho Santa Margarita, 3-8 hybrid striper (released) on a top-water at the flats.
-- Don Spencer of Orange, 3-0 hybrid striper (released) on a Scrounger at the flats.
-- Dave Finkelstein of Anaheim, 2-1 crappie on an Atomic Tube at the flats.

Photo: Soon Lee of Garden Grove landed this 15-pound blue catfish on a Scrounger head while shore fishing on the east bank. Lee released the fish after the photo. Credit: Irvine Lake

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