Shrewsbury Rocks / Monmouth Beach, New Jersey
By Jim Mulvey
Capt. Vito Manzi has chased stripers in the New Jersey area for most of his 45 years. His bass-fishing commitment gained momentum when he found his workweek regularly punctuated by midnight trips to Great Kills in Staten Island to snag bunker and live-line it along Jersey beaches until morning.
He soon purchased a private boat to take out business clients. Eventually, Manzi pursued his Coast Guard captain's license, and has since become one of the most respected striper specialists and sought-after charter guides in the state. He keeps his boat at Total Marine in Neptune. Call 908-812-1922, or visit misslynnsportfishing.com.
Manzi prefers to fish stripers over submerged structure whenever possible, so his favorite place is the Shrewsbury Rocks. The rocks extend a few miles out from the Monmouth Beach area, beginning about eight miles south of Sandy Hook.
"That place is crazy!" Manzi says. "I could say Elberon or Long Branch, but that's really hit or miss. They're there for a couple of days and they move on. The Rocks, any time in the spring you can go there, fish it, and you'll catch them, because you've got a lot of different structure."
The area features rock piles, ridges, mounds and humps. On charts, anglers can see an elbow where the depth rises from about 40 feet to 20 on either side. "So when these fish get a little current, they'll stack up on both sides of the hill in there," he says.
Anglers aboard the Miss Lynn broke the 40-pound mark for stripers 18 times in 2010; several caught 50-pound bass in previous years. One reason Manzi likes all that structure is because of what it holds. "You've got all that natural bait in there, the bergalls and the bottom stuff, a lot of life." The other reason is how he fishes.
While most fishermen jig, clam or troll for stripers during spring and fall migrations, Manzi chunks for them. "I do it a little differently than everybody else," he says. "They chase the bunker schools, but I look for fish on structure, anchor up and chunk them when conditions are right."
The right conditions include at least some current but no wind against the tide. Time of day also ranks highly: "low-light mornings or evenings with little boat traffic. Once there are a lot of boats, it's over."
To chunk effectively, Manzi stresses the importance of maintaining a steady slick. He fishes bunker heads cut diagonally toward the belly and hooked through the top of the head. He cuts the rest of the fish into small pieces to chunk.
Manzi uses fluorocarbon line only if the water is exceptionally clear. "But even then," he adds, "when it's really clean, there's enough bait in the water that the stripers just lose it and start eating."
Fresh bait also makes a difference. Manzi cast-nets bunker at the beginning of every trip and keeps them in a livewell for the day's charter. "If you have a bait in the water for more than 10 minutes, it's time to reel in and get a fresh one on."
June marks the best month to fish for stripers at Shrewsbury Rocks, Manzi says. "Usually, a good trigger is the June full moon. If it's in the end of May or the beginning of June, that's the best moon, and about four days after it, the fishing really kicks off well."
About the Author: Jim Mulvey, an outdoor photographer and fishing junkie, freelances his pictures and articles to support his habit, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.