Family fishing at Irvine Lake

Never tried fishing? Join Peggy Cheng as she takes her whole family fishing for the first time at Irvine Lake, a favorite of local anglers since 1941.

The entrance at Irvine Lake has a tackle shop that sells fishing bait, gear and snacks. I helped my son Trevor set up for his first cast, and he quickly got the hang of it.

For years, my kids have begged me to take them fishing. Though far from the top of my list of open space activities out there, I felt ready to try, given all the other new things we’ve experienced during the last few months. It took me almost 20 years of living in Irvine to discover this landmark surrounded by rugged hills, but Irvine Lake is a peaceful spot my family hopes to revisit again soon.

Fishing novice

The last time I went fishing, I was 7 years old, standing on a walking bridge, dropping my baited fishing line into our small town lake. My sisters and I collected miniature-sized bluegills in a bucket before releasing them back into the water. Though I remember nothing of hauling equipment, preparing bait, unhooking, or even touching the creatures, we loved fishing when Mom took care of everything else. Here I was, inadvertently continuing the tradition for my boys.

Park, walk and fish

Getting from the car to the shore was quite simple. At the Irvine Lake entrance, a convenient tackle shop sells everything from full fishing setups, to various bait, to snacks. Parking in the gravel lot is similarly easy, with an automated kiosk for purchasing parking passes for the day. We grabbed our gear and walked down to the shoreline. With plenty of space to spread out, we ended up at an area along the East Shore that I later learned was called Trout Point.

We found fishing to be a great way to enjoy some fresh air and each other’s company – with no cellphones.

Confidence is everything

The boys were extremely tentative at first, likely sensing my own fears casting the line. Once they performed a few casts together with my husband – and after watching me flounder more than a few times – they actually found a rhythm of casting and reeling. It delighted me to see them enjoying the experience.

My mom taught me how to bait a hook when I was seven. I hadn’t fished since, but I still remember.

You don’t have to catch fish to have fun

With every turn the boys took, I knew I had made the right decision to try fishing with them at Irvine Lake. I watched them grow more relaxed and confident each time they cast their lines. No one stood by to correct their form or remind them of any rules. No one was distracted by their phones. We all just enjoyed the fresh air, each other’s company, and being away from our busy schedules. Time slips away so quickly, and they are growing so fast; I’m so glad to have moments like these with them at Irvine Lake, and can’t wait to go back again soon.

Peggy’s tips for first-time family shoreline fishing

  • Practice casting. Before you go, get familiar with your equipment in the backyard without using hooks.
  • Get comfortable. Bring chairs and snacks to keep energy levels high. Consider a collapsible wagon to haul your stuff up and down the slope to the shore.
  • Plan on two to three hours of time. How long does fishing take? Anglers often respond with: How high is up?
  • Avoid making loud noises. Fish swim away from potential threats, including foreign sounds like a parent’s overly enthusiastic cheering.
  • Fish early. Fish are likely to move from the shoreline to deeper waters as the day warms.
  • Wear sun protection. Hats and sunscreen are a must, even on cloudy days.
  • Have a positive attitude. Confidence, patience and perseverance are key!