Nearly 1,500 stripers released in a fishing year, not a bad record for this vicinity.
Chuck Many may not be the most successful private boat fisherman in NY/NJ Bight, simply because he rarely fishes for anything except striped bass. But when it comes to linesiders it would be hard to beat him — as illustrated by his boat’s nearly 1500 striper releases from New York to Virginia during the last fishing year from March 2019 to February 2020.
Tyman is a 28-foot True World with a diesel inboard, which is based from spring through fall at Gateway Marina in Highlands, NJ before being moved to Cape Charles, VA to finish out the season. Unlike most fanatic anglers, Many doesn’t fly to Florida in the winter or seek billfish in Central America, but continues to make the long trip from Annandale in the hills of northwestern New Jersey to seek the Tyman’s first 60-pound striper in one of the few places where they are likely to be hooked – Chesapeake Bay.
Many’s dedication to the striped bass has been almost total for many years, but he’s been obsessed with fishing from childhood, starting with local ponds and streams before experiencing the larger fish to be found along the Jersey Shore during family trips to the beach. Serving as a mate on the party boat Cock Robin out of Point Pleasant during the summer provided lots of fishing experience even if it was almost all with bluefish.
Chuck followed his passion at the University of Miami by majoring in marine biology. After graduating, he found a great business opportunity that ended up being bought out for enough money that he was able to secure both his family’s future and fund his fishing for decades to come. There are still some days he misses fishing while traveling to watch his daughter Isabella playing softball for Georgia Tech or while coaching youngsters in softball and baseball — but there aren’t many charter skippers who even put in more time on the water during a long season.
The new regulations on striped bass won’t discourage Chuck at all since he’s strictly a release fisherman. He doesn’t mind if a guest wants to keep a striper for dinner, but he releases every one – and does the same with everything else he hooks. Great care is taken in maximizing fish survival, and that even applies to the toadfish, sea robins and skates that hit expensive sandworms drifted for stripers. Even a hot chunking bite at anchor will be interrupted to retrieve a bass that may go belly-up in a strong current after a release in order to continue working on it until it can swim away.
A winner of many tournaments, and American Striper Association Angler of the Year in 2007, Many puts bass to be weighed in a huge below-decks livewell where they can swim and then rushes them up to the scales in a large water-filled cooler before the release.
The ‘19 Season
Last year’s fishing started off with a bang after Chuck had made a couple of March trips by himself to try breaking the ice, but, without a hit. On March 25, I joined him along with Bob Bowden and Dave Glassberg on a short run to the back of Raritan Bay where we saw a few scattered marks that were just enough to drop the anchor on. Our clam chum soon attracted some light hits that got better as small stripers provided a solid light tackle bite that consumed both a flat of bloodworms and another of sandworms. Chuck then started home, but didn’t get far before we were surprised to see a few small swirls. Casting Tsunami and Storm shads produced hits on almost every cast, and a few were even caught on small poppers.
In the past I was in on releases of over 100 school stripers while clam chumming in Raritan Bay during April, though that fishing has dropped off in recent years — and I never had caught a bass casting a lure that early. Thus, our total releases that day last March of 207 bass in just a few hours was amazing even though none made it to 28 inches. It certainly encouraged us about the status of the Hudson River striper stock.
The Raritan Bay area isn’t as famed a striper hot spot as many others to the east, but it’s actually been getting better every year as the coastal migratory stock was declining. By April the bay was full of pre-spawning bass feeding on an abundance of bunkers that had been there since March. Those were mostly adult bass in the teens and twenties plus some in the thirties – and Tyman was into them casting the larger shad lures.
Chuck is an expert cast-netter, and will spend hours if necessary to load up two livewells with bunkers before starting to fish – though that wasn’t necessary when the run started around April 10 last year since lasting lures were so effective. For the record, that particular bite in 2020 was well underway on Raritan Bay before April 1!
After that initial hot bite in 2019, it was back to the usual live bunkers and eels until the ocean fishing for even larger bass opened up from May 7 to June 10. While many anglers shift targets in the summer, Many continues to catch stripers in the bay and Hudson River. It may take longer to net bunker at times, but he always has a flat or two of worms to bail out with in the rivers.
Gassed & Ready to Go
Worms were the ideal bait when Chuck hosted my son Mike after his marriage to Ally from Tennessee and her son Aiden (11) for the youngster’s first fishing trip. Chuck enjoys getting kids into fishing, and worming in Shrewsbury River was perfect as the waters were calm and small stripers plentiful. In short order, Aiden was fighting his first few fish after we hooked them, but soon insisted on hooking them himself – and even added some fluke.
Summer fishing for stripers is a real test of expertise in NY/NJ Bight, but there are good numbers available by fishing very tight spots. Chuck created some of those hangs over the years by weighting down Christmas trees that are located with his fishfinder and often produce a bass or two even when water temperatures get high. Some of the biggest bass of the year may also be hooked at dusk or after dark in the Hudson or the mouth of the bay.
As proficient as he is, Many doesn’t just blunder into bass. Using all the info he can gather in advance, he plans out a long day from first light to dusk — or well beyond. Finding the live bait is the first order of the day before heading to spots where the wind and tide will be together for proper drifting or anchoring. Since there’s quite a large variation in tides throughout the area, it’s usually possible to find the right conditions somewhere from Raritan Bay to the Hudson and East rivers or to the ocean at any given time. Tyman is always full of fuel, and Chuck doesn’t hesitate to burn it up.
As water temperatures started dropping in early fall, Many got into a bite of big bass by bump trolling off the Rockaways from October 10 to the end of November. When the big body of migrating stripers stayed far to the east at that time in 2018, Many didn’t hesitate to make the long run to Fire Island in order to get in on the jigging.
Fish Thru the Year
The northern season had produced 1,489 bass releases of all sizes, and it was time to move Tyman to Cape Charles, VA by November 14. Chuck hadn’t done that for years, only making occasional trips to fish with friends. The big pre-spawning bass used to be released from Tyman during the release season by drifting live eels in the channels. Chuck said he made that long trip to fish in often frigid conditions even just to get one bite because it was sure to be from a big fish.
Actually, I got into some good volume bites with him at that time, and was even able to jig some on heavy Tsunami shads when Chuck marked fish during the drift. Since then it seems that the bass have spread out, and trolling live eels on planer boards covers more ground.
That technique worked out very well from November into February as Tyman released 89 bass. Best of all, they were bigger than ever. The 60-pounder eluded Tyman, but there were 18 fifties up to a 58-pounder; 24 between 40 and 50; seven from 35 to 40; and some schoolies jigged on the last trip in February to bail out after the jumbos couldn’t be located.
Though Many is recognized as one of the most successful anglers in NY/NJ Bight, he’s quite unlike most of the old pros I met as a novice in the sport. Rather than being secretive, he gladly provides information to those who seek it. He’s also expressed his love of the striped bass in a very material way by donating $10,000 to purchase satellite tags for The Fisherman tracking program with Gray FishTag Research. Barring any serious COVID-19 travel and fishing restrictions in May, look for Tyman and The Fisherman crew this month in the lower Hudson River in the hunt for big, post spawn stripers, which will once again be affixed with high-tech miniPSAT devices to track five months worth of striped bass migration.