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While most people are thinking of conventional gifts, fishermen may be more interested in the angling opportunities still available this winter. As usual, there is still good blackfishing not too far offshore and limits of jumbo sea bass on deep water wrecks -- but what's not at all usual is the abundance of large school bluefin tuna within center console range. N.Y. skipper John McMurray has been running after tuna ranging to over 100 pounds that are being found in pods on the surface, and they've been caught by making long casts with heavy spinning tackle and "stick" baits to the pods. It's not easy fishing, but the rewards are great. Bob Matthews, at Fisherman's Den in Belmar Marina, has also heard about tuna action in the Mud Hole on popping plugs, while blackfishing is good in 70-to-90-foot depths (especially on whitelegger crabs) -- and winter flounder continue to hit baits cast from the docks into Shark River on incoming tide when waters are warmest.  At Brielle, the Jamaica continues trips to the far offshore wrecks that produced limits of jumbo sea bass for most fares on Wednesday along with porgies and bluefish. Xio Chen of Harrison won the pool with a 6.5-pound sea bass, while Jimmy Niotis of Manalapan took second with a 6-pounder. The Jamaica will be fishing almost every day between Christmas and New Year's, leaving at 11 p.m. Call 732 528-5014 for reservations. The calm days that have been perfect for tuna fishing have also worked well for blackfish. Capt. Stan Zagleski said Tuesday's fishing from his Elaine B. II out of Bahrs in Highlands couldn't have been much better as the tog hit everything offered all around the boat and everyone limited early. Nelson Mendoza added the only variety with a keeper cod. Wednesday wasn't quite that good, but everyone had at least a couple of keepers -- and Mike Naipawer of Bloomingdale boated a 13-pound trophy tog. The first two mackerel of the winter were caught on bare hooks.  The Ocean Explorer from Belmar reported a flat calm Thursday, but blackfishing was surprisingly tough even though a couple of limits were posted. Bob Matthews noted that small stripers are still being caught in the surf on small plugs and teasers. Herring and windowpane flounders are hitting in Shark River Inlet. Frank Dee, owner of the 48 Viking, Lockout from Brielle passed away this week at 72. The last time I talked to the famed lawyer and Brick resident was while he was waiting for the final weigh-ins during this year's Mako Mania Tournament after taking the lead with a 301-pound mako that almost jumped aboard in the bow of Lockout. That mako easily stood up to win Dee's final Mako Mania. Congratulations to Justin Strehl upon receiving certification of his IGFA line class world record for a 22 1/2-pound tautog boated Nov. 19 on Capt. Frank Tenore's Fins on Feathers from Leonardo with 20-pound line. That catch on a jig and crab broke the record of 21 pounds that had stood since 1954. The N.J. public hearing on Summer Flounder Draft Amendment XXVII will be held after the N.J. Marine Fisheries Council meeting at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 5, 2017 in Galloway Township Library, 306 Jimmie Leeds Road. Prospective regulations are so severe that there could be a limit of three at a 19-inch limit with a season from June 1 to Sept. 15 even though the fluke population appears to be healthy. The Canyon Runner Seminar will be held on Jan. 28, 2017 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The $125 tickets are going fast. Call Adam La Rosa at 732 842-6825. Books make excellent Christmas gifts for anglers. One of the best I've read lately is Fish On, Fish Off by Stephen Sautner (Lyons Press - $22.95). It's subtitled The Misadventures and Odd Encounters of the Self-Taught Angler, and that conveys the humorous nature of the book. I got a big kick out of the chapter A Bridge Tarpon Too Far. Sautner notes that a friend told him exactly how to hook tarpon from Florida Keys bridges but concludes " The key word is hook, because there is absolutely no way to land them." I can understand that frustration, but readers may remember my blog describing how it actually can be done with some regularity. John Unkart's Saltwater Tales (Schiffer Publishing - $24.99) is an interesting combination of fishing stories and instruction that's well worth reading. The emphasis is on Unkart's Chesapeake Bay home waters, both inshore and offshore . That's reflected right away in Chapter 1 on Fall Flounder -- fluke to most of us. He notes fall is the prime time of year for catching a prized "doormat" --the term used for flounder weighing more than five pounds. Obviously, the standards are far different down there as any dedicated Yankee fluke angler knows that the standard for that term is 10 pounds. Fans of the Duck Commander will enjoy a copy of The American Fisherman by Willie Robertson and William Doyle (William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers) - $26.99. Robertson covers the importance of fishing in the development of the country, and how America's wealth of fish changed the course of major wars and discoveries.

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