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Irvine Lake Guide

Irvine Lake is open shoreline fishing Friday thru Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. but all other activities including boating, camping etc. are not currently allowed.

Irvine Lake Catfish Plants & Trout Stocking Schedule

See the trout stocking and catfish stocking schedules for exact dates. Typically Trout are stocked during the winter months and catfish are stocked during the summer months.

Irvine Lake Details

Phone: 714-649-9111Email: [email protected]
Park Hours: Friday-Sunday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.Parking: $5
Dogs: Not permittedReservations: Not required

Gates open to parking at 6 a.m. with access to the lake beginning at 7 a.m.

Fishing is free and parking is $5 per vehicle.

Bait is sold at the Tackle Shop plus light snacks are available for purchase.

Find a list of all places to fish in Orange County.

Irvine Lake

Irvine Lake Regulations

  • No fishing license required. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fishing regulations regarding fish limits apply.
    • The following fishing regulations apply:
      • 5 fish limit.
      • Bass is catch-and-release only.
      • Catfish larger than 24 inches must be released.
      • One rod per person maximum.
      • Approved baits only (worms, mackerel, dough baits, or artificial lure). No live bait allowed, except worms.
  • Bass (catch-and-release), catfish, carp, bluegill, crappie and sturgeon are in the lake. The lake will not be stocked.
  • Shoreline fishing only. No boats, float tubes, paddleboards, kayaks, bodily contact or entry or other recreational activities available.
  • Bait and light snacks are available to purchase.
  • No alcohol permitted.
  • No access to Irvine Ranch Open Space.
  • No parking is allowed anywhere along Santiago Canyon Road. The entrance gate will not open until 7 a.m. Anyone stopped or parked along Santiago Canyon Road prior to the opening will be subject to citation.
  • No camping allowed.
  • No RC boats or drones allowed.
  • No amplified music is allowed.

Who owns Irvine Lake?

The County of Orange owns 75 percent of Irvine Lake while the Serrano Water District (SWD) owns the remaining 25 percent of Irvine Lake. This also means Orange County and the SWD share the lake recreation rights and thus revenue.

As reservoir, Irvine Lake has rights that are controlled by The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) (75% water rights) and SWD owns the remaining 25%.

The bait and tackle shop and shoreline fishing is managed and operated by James Event Productions who are paid $500,000 annually.

The Irvine Co. was previously an owner as well but deeded over all their land rights to the County of Orange.

Directions to Irvine Lake (Google Maps Directions)

Irvine Lake Address: 4621 E. Santiago Canyon Road, Silverado, CA 92676
From Irvine coming from West of Irvine Lake
  • Take Jamboree East to (or toll 261) to E SANTIAGO CANYON RD.
  • Turn LEFT BLUE DIAMOND HAUL RD., follow 1 mile parking will be on right
From Riverside on 91 Freeway Coming from North of Irvine Lake
  • Merge onto CA-241 S toward IRVINE (Portions toll)
  • Take the SANTIAGO CYN exit toward CHAPMAN AVE. (go 0.5 miles)
  • Turn LEFT onto SANTIAGO CANYON RD. (go 2.1 miles)
  • Turn LEFT BLUE DIAMOND HAUL RD., follow 1 mile parking will be on right
From Rancho Santa Margarita coming from the South
  • Merge onto CA-241 N (Portions toll)
  • Take the SANTIAGO CANYON RD exit toward CHAPMAN AVE.(go 0.3 miles)
  • At offramp Stoplight Turn RIGHT onto SANTIAGO CANYON RD. (go 2 miles)
  • Turn LEFT BLUE DIAMOND HAUL RD., follow 1 mile parking will be on right
Coming From South, non-toll
  • Cross under bridge before Irvine Lake entrance turn RIGHT on BLUE DIAMOND HAUL RD.

Irvine Lake Fishing

The motto of Irvine Lake was “The Lake That Wants You To Catch Fish” which was true since it was regularly stocked stocked with bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill and sturgeon. The lake was best known as trout fishery but also known for its largemouth bass. Bass were caught all along shore line cover of the lake with wide variety of techniques, lures and plastics. Bait, lures and plastics were all common methods for all fish as well as using an ultra-light line. It was open to day and night fishing for both on-shore and off-shore fishing. Kayakers deemed the lake an excellent fish kayaking spot. Fishing areas included the Santiago Dam, Rocky Point, Sierra Cove, Catfish Cove, West Fork, Santiago Flats, Trout Island, the docks and kids lagoon.

Types of Fish at Irvine Lake

  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Catfish (Blue and Channel)
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass (Northern and Florida)
  • Redear Sunfish
  • Sturgeon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout (Rainbow, Brook, Brown and Steelhead)
  • Wiper (aka hybrid striped bass or whiterock bass)

Irvine Lake Fishing Records

  • Rainbow Trout – 22.6 lbs
  • Brown Trout – 12.5 lbs
  • Steelhead Trout – 17.0 lbs.
  • Channel Catfish – 50 lbs
  • Blue Catfish – 89.6 lbs
  • Largemouth Bass – 14 lbs 7oz
  • Crappie – 4 lbs 2oz
  • Bluegill – 2 lbs 4oz
  • Sturgeon – 50 lbs
  • Red Ear Sunfish – 2 lbs
  • Common Carp – 45.02

Fishing Tips

  • Use an ultra-light line for catching all species.
    • Nothing heavier than a 4-pound test clear monfilamnet or fluorocarbon.
    • 2-pound test line if the fish are acting finicky, or are under heavy pressure during weekend or holiday periods.
  • Power Bait or Gulp!, Berley Trout Dough, are popular baits. #16 or #18 treble hook.
  • Chartreuse, yellow, rainbow, white are popular bait colors.
  • Mackerel dipped in Bite-On Cajun and Berkley Garlic sauce or garlic flavored nightcrawlers dipped in Berkley Garlic.
  • Use a bobber and let the bait hang for 3-4 feet.
  • Shoreline hotspots include Trout island, the west shoreline and near the docks. Also try Santiago Flats, Rocky Point, Sierra Cove, and the dam.
  • Keep bait leaders at 12 to 18-inch range, 6 -8 inches if muddy conditions.
  • Try drop shots, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs
  • Use 3″ to 6″ plastics “split-shot style” with a #10 to #14 fine wire hook with a splitshot sinker.
  • Live bait cannot be used and no boats thus trolling not a recommendation either.

Find a list of all places to fish in Orange County.

Irvine Lake Map

Irvine Lake Map
Lake map, vicinity map, park entrance

Print and download the Irvine Lake Map pdf.

Reopening Irvine Lake Update

For almost 90 years Irvine Lake was the destination for Orange County fishermen and families seeking outdoor activities but sadly that came to an end over a disagreement over water recreation rights between Orange County and the Serrano Water District (SWD).

On Tuesday, June 25, 2019, The OC Board of Supervisors passed an Irvine Lake vote 5-0, marking a huge step towards bringing back offshore fishing and possibly much more to Orange County residents. 

There is now a new one year agreement with James Productions to operate a bait shop and manage shoreline fishing at Irvine Lake. James Productions is currently contracted to operate special events and RV storage at the lake.

Future plans may include boat fishing, camping, hiking trails and much more but those details still need to be worked out.

Irvine Company Deeds Land to County of Orange (June 11, 2019)

Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the Irvine Company deeded over 29 acres of land to the County of Orange, marking the first step towards reopening Irvine Lake. For the past four years, the former boating and fishing hot spot has sat quiet, collecting weeds on the water’s surface.

“Political in fighting has stalled the usage of this lake, but thanks to the Irvine Company’s generous move, the County is finally in a position with Irvine Lake, Serrano Water District, and Irvine Ranch to bring back fishing for public enjoyment,” Supervisor Wagner said, “This summer, I hope to provide an incredible resource for Orange County residents.”

With the Irvine Company’s donation, all parties are now on the hook to come to an agreement. Once a consensus is reached, the County is willing to resume recreational activities at the largest, most sought-after lake in Orange County.

Supervisor Don Wagner represents the Third District communities of Irvine, Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, Villa Park, and Yorba Linda on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Remaining Issues at Irvine Lake

While it’s great news that Irvine Lake is open to shoreline fishing there are still many obstacles to overcome in order to fully restore Irvine Lake and keep it open:

  • Where will future money come from to pay for improvements and fish stocking?
  • There is no master plan or agreement with all vested parties.
  • Will the Serrano Water District, a 25 percent owner, hold up future plans (again)?
  • The vendor operating Irvine Lake is paid an exorbitant $500k to manage annually.
  • Irvine Lake levels are very low due to the drought and IRWD draining the lake. Will OC Parks pay IRWD to not drain the lake?
  • Irvine Lake is need of a new outlet drain which could result in the lake being drained.
  • Previously boating was terminated due to high insurance costs and those costs have only gone up.
  • State regulations may prevent any future water activity.

How to View Irvine Lake from Afar

It’s possible to take in the views of Irvine Lake through guided tours from Fremont Canyon, Black Star Canyon or at events such as the Irvine Lake Mud Run. However, it is against the law to enter the lake and there are posted signs prohibiting entry. Fremont and Black Star are part of the Irvine Open Space Preserve and these guided tours take you along trails overlooking the lake. Events like the Irvine Lake Mud Run are held at Oak Canyon Park and adjacent parks (Lakeview, Baja Beach, Little Oaks) which are private parks located at 5305 Santiago Canyon Road Silverado, CA 92676. The mud run trails also overlook Irvine Lake.

Another option is to fly a drone legally by joining the Orange County Modelers Association (OCMA). OCMA flies from Bob Swenson field which is situated to the east of Irvine Lake. The field is accessed through the same road (Blue Diamond / Haul Road as the lake.

About Irvine Lake (known as Santiago Creek Reservoir)

Address: 4621 Santiago Canyon Rd., Silverado, CA 92676

The 750 acres Irvine Lake is located at the base of Cleveland National Forest and is the largest body of freshwater in Orange County. It is a man-made lake which can store approximately 28,000 acres of water. Santiago Creek feeds the lake and features a rustic scenery, beautiful mountains, steep rocky cliffs, shallow coves, deep creek channels, submerged high spots and overhanging trees.

In the past Irvine Lake provided an excellent fishing and family park environment. Irvine Lake featured a fully-stocked bait and tackle shop, café, rental boats, private launch, and RV and tent camping. Beyond fishing visitors could hike, mountain bike, picnic and much more. For over 70 years Irvine Lake has been a great fishing and camping location for residents across Southern California. Kids often caught their very first fish at the Kids Lagoon, and scouts and Indian Guides camped on the shore. The lake featured the annual Villa Park Family Picnic, and the site of many reunions, festivals and family outings.

Today, there are still activities near or around Irvine Lake such as the Irvine Lake Mud Run and the Born Free motorcycle event. However, there is no contact allowed with the lake anywhere.

Facilities & Activities at Irvine Lake

  • Fishing (fishing license not required)
  • Kids Fishing Lagoon
  • RV, trailer, and tent camping
  • Archery
  • Boating
  • Boat Rentals
  • Tackle Shop
  • Volleyball
  • Horseshoes
  • Basketball Court
  • Cafe
  • Hot showers Restrooms
  • Picnic Area
  • Play Area
  • Water Outlets

Swimming, water-skiing or jet-skis were not allowed. Private boats, kayaks, float tubes and canoes were allowed until the insurance restrictions were put in place. Rental boats and pontoons were available for a time after that until another incident forced the prohibition of all water crafts.

Irvine Lake Events

There are no longer any events at Irvine Lake.

Previous events at Irvine Lake Included:

  • Boogaloo Mountain Jam
  • Boy Scouts & Indian Guides Camping
  • Coors Drag Racing Championships
  • Family Reunions
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Grand Prix of Drag Boat
  • Irvine Lake Blues Festival
  • Motorcycle Madness
  • OC Music Festival
  • Orange County Beer Fest
  • Villa Park Family Picnic

Many of the events still exist but have moved elsewhere such as the Irvine Lake Mud Run and the OC Music Fest which moved to the private venue Oak Canyon Park which is on the eastern side of Irvine Lake.

There was also a water-ski school running illegally for nine years in the late 1990s and early 2000s until it was shutdown. The water district incorrectly believed it was not in violation of state law health codes if the skiers wore wetsuits.

Irvine Lake RV Storage

Irvine Lake RV & Boat Storage

4621 Santiago Canyon Road
Silverado, CA 92676

Irvine Lake RV storage remains open.

Irvine Lake History

In 1931 the Santiago dam was built on the Santiago creek by the Irvine Company, the Serrano Irrigation District (today know as the Serrano Water District) and the John T. Carpenter Irrigation District. James Irvine furnished the site for the dam and the reservoir Irvine Lake (formerly known as Santiago Reservoir). The lake originally served the agricultural and farming communities surrounding Irvine Lake and was opened to the public for fishing in 1941.

Today, Serrano Water District (SWD) provides potable water to the City of Villa Park and a small portion of the City of Orange. SWD receives its water supply from local surface water which is stored in Irvine Lake and groundwater from three wells located within the City of Villa Park. The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) also uses untreated water from Irvine Lake to supplement its irrigation water and is able to treat water from the lake as part of the Baker Water Treatment Plant project.

Irvine Lake Sky View

Irvine Lake

Why was Irvine Lake Closed?

In 2014 the Irvine Company handed over their 75 percent controlling interest of the recreational rights of Irvine Lake to Orange County. The Serrano Water District (SWD) owns the other 25 percent. This “gift” unfortunately set off a disagreement between two government agencies who can’t agree on how to split profits from the lake businesses including RV & boat storage, gate fees, fishing and camping. Since both parties have a claim on the water recreation rights they both must agree on how the lake activities are operated.

Since the lake closing in 2016, negotiations would appear to have dragged on for years but really they haven’t because there has been little to no communication between Orange County and SWD. Adding to the problems, at the time of closing, revenue was also decreasing due to two drowning incidents which led to a boat ban and a drought which dropped water levels and reduced lake visitors.


  • December 2022 – Irvine lake held an inaugural free trout fishing derby on December 17, 2022.
  • August 2019 – Irvine Lake reopened on Saturday, August 17, 2019.
  • June 2019 – An agreement was reached and Irvine Lake will open up to shoreline fishing only.
  • June 2019 – Irvine Co. donates the 29-acre frontage parcel to Orange County.
  • 2016 to May 2019 – Negotiations remained at a standstill and Irvine Lake stayed closed.
  • March 1, 2016 – Irvine Lake permanently closed.
  • February 28, 2016 – Last day or fishing at Irvine Lake.
  • 2016 – Orange County advises SWD that its recreational rights, i.e., lake fishing, would be terminated as of March 31, 2016.
  • 2014 – 2106 – Orange County and SWD negotiate unsuccessfully for two years to reach an agreement over Irvine Lake rights.
  • 2015 – All boating including rental boats banned following another drowning. Shoreline fishing only. Increased insurance restrictions/costs were again attributed for the change in policy.
  • 2014 – Irvine Company gifts 2,500 acres of land near Anaheim Hills, East Orange and Irvine Regional Park to Orange County, including their 75% of Irvine Lake Rights.
  • 2012 – All private boats banned and life jackets required following accidental drownings of two men and a $1.5 million settlement. Increased insurance restrictions/costs were attributed for the change in policy.

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Monique McArthur
Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.