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Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer
Part II
by Capt. Jim Freda

Shore Catch Guide Service

n part one I began the discussion of “The Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer” which went into how to beat the striper summer doldrums by targeting a few specific locations that hold stripers year in and year out during the months of July and August. The first two locations discussed were 1) fishing the jetty tips in Monmouth County during the false dawn to one hour after sunrise. 2) fishing the Island Beach State Park surf zone on calm sunny days. Both of these locations were for the angler on foot.

This month I will explore two boat locations that are well known and fished hard during the summer for stripers. As mentioned before summertime brings new thinking to the game and a fair catch of striped bass can be made if you know where and when to go. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

1) Where: Shrewsbury Rocks. When: Daylight during the changing tide.

The Shrewsbury Rocks is a natural underwater rock assemblage that is submerged in the waters of northern Monmouth County. The Rocks are located just off of Monmouth Beach spreading around the GPS coordinates N40.20.323 W73.57.523. This is approximately 9 miles south of Sandy Hook, 10 miles north of Shark River Inlet, or 15 miles north of Manasquan Inlet. The rocks can be found spread over the bottom in a wide area in as shallow as 24 feet of water and laying deeper into 45 feet of water.

There are two green buoys that mark the area of the Rocks and are a familiar sight to boaters when looking to approach. They also notify shipping vessels of its shallow nature. The inshore buoy is approximately one mile out and is known as the ‘Can”. The outer buoy is approximately two miles out and is known as the “Gas Can”.

The influence of tides at the Rocks is important as to the success that you will have. During slack tide there is little current and as a result the bass are not as apt to feed. Since the Rocks are in close proximity to Sandy Hook Bay the effects of either the incoming or outgoing tides will be felt there. Currents will move northward on the incoming tide or towards the bay and move more southeasterly on the outgoing portion of the tide.

The Rocks are a frequented summer hotspot for boaters that will either troll over the area or set up and anchor. When anchored chunking is the preferred method of targeting stripers but some anglers will jig if they are reading stripers on their fishfinder.

Fishing the Rocks in the summer can be difficult on many days however simply because of all the bluefish that inhabit this area. Whether you are trolling or chunking big gator blues will attack your offerings. On some days you will not catch any stripers at all simply because you can not get to them through all the bluefish that around.

But on those days when the blues give you a break trolling with deep diving plugs will be effective. The Mann’s Stretch 25’s and 30’s are a good choice as these lures will get to the depths that you need, and that is near the bottom. Troll these plugs slowly by just putting your boat in gear or tapping the throttle a notch or two. I have found that if you troll too fast these plugs will not track right and rise to the surface. For colors I prefer any bunker colored plug, plugs will greenish or bluish hues, and chartreuse. The chartreuse color has always been productive each season.

Bunker chunks are the ideal bait during the day up at the Rocks. While some anglers will also use eels they are more preferred at nighttime. It will be difficult however to get fresh bunker from the middle of July through August as the bunker schools that were along the beach for all of June and the usually the first two weeks of July are now gone. So you will need to obtain fresh frozen bunker from a bait shop before you depart.

The question here is just how long has the bunker been frozen. The longer it remains frozen the more freezer burn it will develop and the poorer the bait will become. To ensure that I head out with the freshest baits possible I have purchased a small chest cooler that I leave in my basement for putting my own baits in. During the last two weeks of the bunker run in July I make sure I take fresh bunker home on each trip and freeze them in pairs in Ziploc heavy duty freezer bags. By the middle of July I have accumulated about 60 whole baits in the freezer. On a trip these will each be cut into four pieces so that is a total of 240 baits for the four weeks that I might be fishing by this method. If I go through 20 - 25 baits on a trip that rounds out to about 10 trips that I can take. This is more than I will do in this time window so I am covered with some insurance and plenty of chunks to spare to make a light slick.

The most popular rig for bunker chunking is the Fish Finder Slider rig (refer to Tournament Trophy™ Fish Finder Slider Rigs). Attach the Fish Finder Slider to the running line, and then add a 150 pound barrel swivel to tie your leader to. The leader should be 40 to 60 pound test and 18 to 24 inches long. Such a short leader helps to eliminate the helicopter effect that you get with a long leader as the bait sits in the current. I like to use large 8/0 Gamakatsu Circle hooks to get around the bait or a head. When a bass inhales a chuck or head it is will be in the mouth completely so setting the hook on the take will help prevent gut-hooking the bass if you are not using circle hooks.

A savvy bass will stay deep and try to break you off by pulling your leader across the rocks. For this reason you will not want to play with the fish like you might in the surf. Lay into it and apply enough power and leverage to start to lift the fish. For this reason you will need a rod and reel that is up to the task.

I prefer to use conventional and not spinning tackle for this type of fishing. The 8 foot St Croix extra heavy fast action Tidemaster series conventional rods match with an Avet SX or MX lever drag reels spooled with 30 Lb test are ideal for these application. You can also use the St. Croix Premier conventional series 15-30 Lb rods. Both of these set-ups will provide all the power and leverage you need to subdue any bass that you might hook into.

Most summertime fish will not be labeled as what we would say are large. Biggest fish will most likely be from 25-29 lbs. However the bulk of your catch will be made up of 8-18 Lb fish. If you see your rod twitching or getting bumped slightly after your chunk is on the bottom it will be because of crabs, blues, or other fish that are tucking away at it. Therefore check your baits regularly.

2) Where: Sandy Hook Rips out to Ambrose Channel. When: Nighttime

Nighttime fishing for striped bass is an eel game and can be highly productive from the Sandy Hook Rips out to the Ambrose Channel. Most veteran striped bass anglers will tell you that nothing compares to live using eels when it comes to catching trophies. Most bait shops along the coast carry a nice supply of live eels even in the summertime. They will range in size from 8-13 inches.

Keeping eels alive and healthy doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort. Most anglers keep them in a 5-gallon bucket, preferably black, which turns the eels jet black, the best color for fishing them live or rigged. The bucket should have enough water to keep them moist. The eels will take oxygen from the surface to survive. If there is too much water in the bucket, the eels will drown without adequate aeration.

A friend of ours has another neat way to care for eels—a three-bucket system that keeps them alive for days. Here are the details. The buckets must fit inside each other and be easy to separate. Start with a 5-gallon bucket that will fit in your fish cooler. (Use large white marine coolers.) This bucket will carry the eels, so it should be black to keep them dark. Next comes a smaller 2-gallon bucket with 30 to 40-1/2 inch holes drilled in the bottom. Fill a second two gallon bucket about a third of the way with ice. Place this ice bucket on top of the eels; the ice water will drain and keep the eels lethargic. Also, keep a small block of wood in the bottom of the largest bucket so the eels do not drown in the drip water.

When fishing eels use a 6/0 or 7/0 Circle or Octopus “J” style Gamakatsu hook snelled on a 18 to 36-inch piece of leader material. Attach a 130 pound-test Power Swivel or 150-pound-test Crane Barrel Swivel.

Hook your eels through their lower jaw and out through the center of their nose. If you’ve ever tried this with a frisky eel, you know it can be quite a challenge. This is where a rag or glove comes in handy by providing you better grip. Grab the eel near the head tightly and hook as described above. As soon as the eel is hooked get it in the water; this way it won’t have the chance to ball up on the leader. Once again conventional rod and reels are preferred for this style of fishing. Like chunks a bass will inhale the entire eel on one swipe so the hook will be in its mouth when you feel the take, so set the hook quickly to avoid a gut hook.

Keep in mind that this area is a major shipping lane for vessels, cargo and container ships that are entering or exiting Raritan Bay. For this reason you will need to be aware of their approaching location at all times. Having radar on board is highly recommended if you are going to venture out here at night. Make sure all of your lights are in working order and be prepared to yield to any larger vessel. End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved

Articles by Captain Jim Freda

Capt. Jim FREDAEmail Captain Jim Freda

Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast, has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen, with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.

Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.

As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.

He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.

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