The primary wintering grounds for the majority of the East Coast’s striper population is off North Carolina. Serious guides and veteran anglers who’ve for the last 8- 10 years fished big winter bass schools off the Carolina Capes will tell you how things are changing. They’ll tell you how the big fish once stretched along beaches from Cape Charles, VA down to Cape Hatteras, NC, how you wouldn’t need to search far to find huge schools of 30-50-pounders, how in the past few years this fishery has been drying up. They’ll tell you how you have to run farther now to find the schools that are smaller and fewer, though big fish are still among them. There are those who claim the fish have simply gone farther off shore. Fishermen with historical perspective will tell you that’s bull---t. They’ve been searching to 20 miles off shore for the fish, but haven’t found them. According to one guide, a NOAA ship dedicated to tagging the biggest breeder winter bass, this year is striking out finding them. The read is that the healthy comeback population of big breeding bass made possible--after a near stock collapse-- by comparatively conservative management in the mid-80’s into the 90’s is being fished down. It appears as though the fishery along the NC coast has fallen and that the fleet has moved north to join boats already fishing Virginia waters.