Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Thursday, August 09, 2018
No you're not
Friday, October 19, 2018
Options 'Galore(y) Days'

Irvine Fake
It’s still there. Hasn’t gone anywhere, dried up or been stricken from the earth via some kind of natural catastrophe. Nope. Irvine Lake still sits there in Santiago Canyon as it has since its construction in 1929 and since it opened to fishing in the pre-World War Two era in 1941. No fewer than four generations of Southern Californians have enjoyed Irvine Lake’s serenity, uniqueness and perhaps most of all — at least to us anglers — its multi-pronged fishery.

It’s been out of commission to recreation now for 2½ years, since it closed to the public Feb. 28, 2016 after a land deal consisting of 2,500 acres surrounding the lake going from the Irvine Co. to the County of Orange, which was agreed upon in 2015. Aside from the presumed nighttime ninja fisherman desperately hunting for his PB largemouth or any possible transients squatting in the nearby hills poaching fish in the evenings, nobody has wet a line there since just after Valentine’s Day in 2016 — and no one here locally can love that.

But really, why?

Well, the shortest of answers is that the powers that be haven’t really figured anything out at all since then. The main players are the Serrano Water District, the County of Orange and the Irvine Ranch Water District, all of which are run by publicly elected officials — with elections coming up this November to most definitely keep in mind in this case.

What should by any and all assumptions very well be an incredibly valuable and fantastic public resource, hasn’t been accessible to the public for more than 30 months now. And there doesn’t seem to be much resolve on the part of any of the main parties involved to do anything with an eye toward the good of the public or surrounding community for the sake of recreation or fishing in the near — or distant — future.

Instead, the bickering and stalemate continues, while those of us who happen to enjoy a little time on the water and catching a fish now and then are essentially boxed out. For no real, legitimate reason, and merely because perhaps a couple dozen folks can’t — or won’t — get their act together and figure out a solution that makes the premier freshwater fishery that Orange County has really ever known accessible to the people who pay high dollar to live their lives in Orange County and Southern Cali­fornia in general.

With the two water districts controlling the recreation rights to the lake’s water, the parties involved would have to come to some sort of agreement in order to transfer Irvine’s recreation rights to the County of Orange to begin paving the way back to reopening the 25 acres of lakefront to public use again. And there doesn’t seem to be much traction in getting there as of now. All sides say they are working toward some type of solution that could eventually do so, yet there also seems to be quite a bit of finger pointing and balking among them at the same time, or at the least the appearance of a lack of urgency to move the ball forward to toward restoring public recreation at the lake.

One primary sticking point in this situation rests with the Serrano Water District, which last managed the concessions and recreation at the lake before its lease was not renewed back in 2015, and ultimately when the gates closed Feb. 28, 2016. Serrano controls 25 percent of the lake’s water rights, yet has not come to any sort of terms as to taking a requisite 25 percent of any future water-based recreation revenue. So, here we are. The stalemate continues, and the public continues to lose out most of all.

According to the county, it has engaged and facilitated discussions with the water districts to push the ball forward toward coming to an agreement that would allow for eventually reopening the lake to public use. However, the folks at Serrano say the County of Orange hasn’t breached talks or approached the water district for a year now. Like most things in life, the truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle of it all in the gray, but that doesn’t give much solace to the public that’s being denied use and access to one of its most long-favored and popular outdoor recreation areas amidst an ever-growing and expanding urban sprawl so desperately in need of it.

So for now, we just wait. Or we write the county expressing our displeasure with the situation. Or we cast a ballot for a whole host of new and different names in the upcoming November elections and merely hope that somebody will finally get the ball rolling. Because the folks currently in place certainly don’t seem to even be holding the ball, let alone appear to be inclined to rolling it forward with any positive momentum at this particular point in time.

Does a lake sit in the woods? And while we know this particular one does in fact sit there right in our backyard, does it really even exist if nobody can even access or enjoy the resource? Philosophy for dummies.

In the meantime, that unique body of water out in Santiago Canyon continues to just sit there and taunt those of us who truly realize its value and importance to the angling community and beyond to no avail. And it’s really a crying shame across the board.

But, yes, to answer the question. A lake does sit in the woods...

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Reader Comments
Been Fishing Irvine Lake since my early teens.(69 now) Taught many children how to fish there as well as Adults who would have never experienced fishing without this Lake. Irvine Lake is literally A High Sierra Lake in the City. People not only experience Fishing there but Nature. Bald Eagles, Deer, osprey, Mountain Lions on occasion and untold numbers of Birds. Irvine Lake was like a Classroom in the City for the Public. Beautiful easily accessed and always an Adventure to Young and Old alike. I remember people lining up along Santiago Canyon Road the night before on the weekends because of their love of fishing and to teach their Children about the Outdoors. Very Sad that it cannot be Enjoyed anymore. Thanks for the update. There are Many of us out here eager for this information.
William lundquist
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