Capt. Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Guide Service landed the biggest striper ever reported on hook-and-line in the greater Pamlico Sound area on Dec. 14.

"I've caught hundreds of adult stripers in the ocean during the winter while charter fishing out of Oregon Inlet; this is probably my biggest to date, and we were far from the ocean," said Andrews, who is from Washington. "At 49 ¾ inches in total length and with a 26-inch girth, she was approximately 50 pounds."

The buzz over striper fishing in North Carolina's coastal rivers and sounds is normally between the fall and the famous spring spawning run. And the annual run of massive *breeders between 20 and 40 pounds draws thousands of anglers just outside the surf zone on the Outer Banks out of Oregon Inlet. But few of those gargantuan linesides ever seem to show up inside the barrier islands in the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds during the winter. 

Scientists have always believed the sounds were capable of sustaining winter schools of these large fish because they have ideal habitat for the big stripers, including deep water, stump-covered shallow flats and plenty of forage fish. 

Andrews (252-945-9715) had a hunch the sounds would hold big fish like the one he caught trolling a chartreuse bucktail and soft-plastic trailer. 

"It may not ever happen again, but it was a pretty amazing catch," he said. "Due to the sensitive nature of these adult females and their contribution during the spawn to the estuarine stocks, anybody who catches one of these large fish is encouraged to return them to the water immediately."