By Leon A. Sylvester
Limited access throughout Connecticut makes saltwater fishing difficult for those who do not have access to a boat. Surfcasters and shore bound fishermen are always on the lookout for new spots to access Long Island Sound’s shoreline and to pursue the many game fish that reside in our state’s waters. Although limited, there are still several excellent locations throughout the state where anglers can hook into and battle trophy size Stripers, Bluefish and Fluke right from shore and Penfield Reef in Fairfield is definitely one of my favorites to do just that.
History of Penfield Reef :
At one time the reef was actually a Peninsula stretching out nearly a mile into the sound. The land was used by farmers and cattle grazed in it’s fields, a fact which is still memorialized by the naming of large boulders (Cows and Calves) which are located at the end of the reef. Erosion from the tides and seas wore away the land and all that was left was a rock and sand reef which is visible only at low tide. In 1874 Penfield Lighthouse was constructed at the end of the reef in order to protect boaters from the dangers of the shallow bar and to guild captains safely into near by Black Rock and Bridgeport harbors.
Getting to the Reef:
Penfield Reef is located at the end of Reef Road in Fairfield. It is less than a mile from I-95 and Route 1 making it easily accessible to most. Anglers can park for free anywhere along Reef or Fairfield Beach Road and the public access point is a paved walkway off Fairfield Beach Road directly across from College Place. there are also a couple small dirt pull offs and parking areas ( enough for 5 cars) just past the access point on Fairfield Beach Road.
Fishing The Reef:
Fishing the reef is always safest on the falling tide. As the water recedes, more and more of the reef will be visible and anglers can walk out nearly the entire way to the end with relative ease. Wade fishing is also possible here but anglers should take caution as the tide does come in quickly and parts of the reef closer to the beach actually covers with water before the end does making it very easy for anglers to get trapped if they are not careful. Both sides of the reef are productive fishing grounds for Stripers, Blues and Fluke as are the surrounding beaches and rock jetties for those who do not feel comfortable venturing out on the reef.
Surfcasters, Fly fishermen and bait dunkers will all have a chance to catch big fish at Penfield. Surfcasters should bring an assortment of lures such as; Deadly Dicks, Jointed Redfins, Bombers and Pencil Poppers. Fly fishermen will do well fishing, Deceivers, Clousers and any other small baitfish imitating flies that resemble Sand Eels and Silversides which are always in abundance around the reef. Bait fishermen will find plenty of action chunking Bunker or Mackerel for Bass and Blues, while casting live Eels is another popular and productive method used at this location. Sandworms, squid and clams fished along the bottom will produce Fluke, Porgy, Blackfish and an occasional Sea Bass. Make sure to keep an eye out for diving birds. Sea birds feed on the same small baitfish the fish do and there feeding often signifies fish activity as well.
Leon A. Sylvester lives in the Housatonic Valley and has been an avid boater and angler for over 25 years. He is a featured weekly outdoor columnist in Hersam Acorn Newspapers throughout southwestern CT. and is a founding director of FOTHR (Friends of the Housatonic River) which is a non-profit enviromental watchdog organization protecting the shores of the lower Housatonic River. You can follow him on twitter @ Fishingreporter.