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Manasquan Reservoir Surprise
by Paul Tarlowe, Wildlife Education Specialist, with
Mark Boriek, Principal Fisheries Biologist

New Jersey anglers are always looking for new waters to explore, especially those with a wide variety and large populations of game fish. The potential to produce a trophy also appeals to many anglers. One such body of water is the 720-acre Manasquan Reservoir in Monmouth County.

The reservoir is operated by the New Jersey Water Supply Authority and became operational in 1990. The 4 billion gallon water storage reservoir was formed by constructing a main dam, a dike and a road embankment. The DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife was involved with the construction process to ensure that good angling would be a product of the project.

To enhance the planned fisheries standing timber was left along the edges of the reservoir. While beneficial to a wide variety of wildlife, the timber provides structure for black crappie. Pea-sized gravel was spread along the northern shore to provide spawning areas for largemouth and smallmouth bass and sunfish. Stump fields were left on the bottom, and cabled trees were anchored to provide structure for a variety of fish.

As the reservoir filled the Division stocked largemouth and smallmouth bass. Pre-spawn adult alewife were stocked to provide a forage base for hybrid striped bass - both open water species. These bass species now provide an outstanding fishery with catches up to 8 pounds. Other species include channel catfish and sunfish - these too provide for excellent fishing action.

Another species stocked by the Division is tiger muskellunge, a sterile hybrid of the northern pike and muskellunge. These fast-growing fish can make for some surprising excitement as described by the following account submitted by Dan O'Reilly, who decided to try fishing the reservoir in September, 2002:

The following is a brief summary of the unforgettable fishing trip I took to the Manasquan Reservoir:

My friend Vali Orza from Romania and I arrived at the Manasquan Reservoir around 8:00 a.m. on Sunday September 15, 2002. I have previously been to the park to walk or bike on the many trails located there. After many unfulfilled promises to take my friend fishing, we finally got our act together, threw our gear in the boat, and launched. The weather was cool and breezy following a few days of rain, with a slight chop on the water. Since neither of us had fished there before we decided to fish for bass or whatever might bite with spinners and spoons, mostly around submerged trees and logs, etc.

Within the first hour I hooked what at first I thought to be a submerged branch from one of the dead trees I had cast between. After setting the hook (into wood I thought), I held the pole with tension on the line to spot where I was snagged. I quickly noticed that my line was moving slightly when compared to the unmoving shoreline. At this point I realized that although this fish was not really fighting back like any other fish I ever caught, it had to something large. It was more like taking a big dog for a walk on a leash that had someplace important to go.

The boat actually did follow the fish, I kid you not! After five minutes or so of this I told my friend that this fish was at least 10 pounds if not more, and that it was going to take a while if we were going to be lucky enough to land it. I should mention that I was fishing with a light action spinning rod and reel loaded with 4 lb. test. A Panther Martin spinner was attached only by a snap swivel and clinch steel leader.

Vali and Dan with tiger muskie
Vali Orza assists Dan O'Reilly with his 20 lb., 45" tiger muskie

After about twenty minutes I was able to get the fish near the boat and my partner netted him on the second try. What we had was a 45-inch tiger muskie that was weighed in at 20 lbs. by County Ranger Tom Fobes at the reservoir. I believe it to be the second largest tiger muskie on record in New Jersey. Once it was in the boat, the fish thrashed around more than any fish I ever boated. The spinner by the way fell out of the fish's mouth as soon as it was in the boat. The net we used will need some repair to mend the six inch hole created by some very sharp teeth.

The most excitement that day obviously was catching the fish, but the fun we had at the launch area when we brought it in was a close second. The Park Rangers staff all came out to have a look and congratulate me as did a bunch of other fisherman that were there for a bass tournament that day.

The Manasquan Reservoir really is a great place to spend a day with family and friends. The park is extremely well managed and cared for, and I'm the last one you'll ever hear complain about their fish stocking program. You should check it out. I know I'm going back!

As Dan's experience that day illustrates, fishing can often lead to the unexpected. In fact, a similar sized tiger was caught and released by another angler the same week!

The division rates the fishing quality at the reservoir as "Excellent" for the following species: hybrid, largemouth and smallmouth bass; crappie; and sunfish. There's also pickerel and catfish available, trout during the spring season, and of course the tiger muskies.

Recent catches in July, 2003 include 22" largemouth and smallmouth bass and a 30" 13lb. channel catfish. Last August a 4 lb. 12 oz., 27.5" long hybrid striped bass was caught by Brian Czapala drifting live shiners. It was his first trip to Manasquan Reservoir - he said that he will definitely be going back!

Brian Czapala with hybrid striper
Brian Czapala with his 4 lb., 27.5" hybrid striped bass

There's a boat ramp at the Joseph C. Irwin Recreation Area, operated by the Monmouth County Park System, on Windler Rd. (fee required). There's also shoreline fishing along the 5-mile perimeter trail which can be accessed at the Irwin Recreation Area or the Chestnut Point Parking Area on Georgia Tavern Rd.

More information about the area, including a map, can be found at or by contacting Monmouth County Parks at:

Joseph C. Irwin Recreation Area
311 Windler Road
Howell Township, N.J.

The Division urges anglers to give the Manasquan Reservoir a try - you never know what surprise it may hold for you!

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