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Townshend Ledge is a semi-pork-chop-shaped, half-mile-long reef located about 2-1/2 miles southeast of the New Haven Harbor breakwalls and about 3-1/2 miles southwest of Branford Harbor off the central Connecticut coast.
By Capt. Tom Migdalski
Image courtesy of Navionics.

The rocks here rise up from a mud bottom of about 40 feet deep to a high spot of about 18 to 20 feet on its south end and about 27 to 29 feet on its north end. The ledge is far enough offshore so not every little tin boat ventures there, but it’s close enough to be safe and productive for an average 16-footer with basic electronics.

Townshend Ledge was likely named for Captain Charles Townshend, whose mansion sat on 50 acres overlooking New Haven Harbor from the east, and who was responsible for pioneering the breakwaters at the mouth of the harbor, which were authorized for construction on March 3, 1879. Capt. Townshend was born in New Haven in 1833, and at an early age became intensely involved in a nautical life by making coastal voyages in sloops and schooners. He soon rose to social and financial prominence in connection with navigation interests.

Townshend Ledge is especially good for anchored baitfishing at the reef’s southerly high spot (just north Buoy 10A, 41°12.533’ / 72°51.783’). The bottom here is rugged and reportedly holds a small wreck (41°12.659’ / 72°51.806’). It is very difficult to troll over this spot, but it’s excellent for fishing cut baitfish, crabs, sandworms, squid or clams. The structure’s peak is a blackfish hotspot, while throughout the summer months chunkers set up here for bluefish and stripers, as do the porgy pros. A second small wreck (41°12.922’ / 72°51.323’) is reportedly located just northeast of the ledge, which shows on some charts.

The ledge on the north half of the reef is less jagged and more forgiving, and therefore is a good location to try deep trolling for bass and blues during peak tidal flow. At the “elbow” or midpoint of the reef sits a low spot, and this is a natural funneling feature for bluefish and stripers, which are best targeted by diamond jigging on the up-tide side of the small rip line that forms here.

Large fluke often stage along the north end of the reef where the slope meets leveler bottom, so it’s worth bringing along fluke rigs and taking a few drifts starting from the up-tide side of the north end and continuing over and beyond it. Anglers also have luck here with weakfish, while sea bass mix-in with the porgies on the boney south end.

False albacore are infrequent visitors in central Long Island Sound, but during good albie years the “triangle” from Taunton Rock to the Branford Beacon to Townshend Ledge and back to Taunton Rock may hold them for weeks if small baitfish are plentiful. The key is to watch for quickly-undulating pods of predators showing slashing surface breaks beneath working terns. If you cast to them but keep losing your lures due to cut-offs you are likely throwing to bluefish. On the other hand, if you are casting big “bluefish lures” to fast-breaking blues, but they don’t bite, you may be casting at albies.

By late in the season (end of October to Thanksgiving), keeper blackfish have been culled from the ledge, so you’ll likely just be cranking up the same shorts that have been caught and released all fall. However, if you keep trying every trip out and happen to hit the timing right, a hot schoolie bass run usually occurs here. Fifty-fish trips with small diamond jigs are not uncommon on bass of 16 to 26 inches. Thank you Captain Charles Townshend—your legend lives on at your nautical namesake hotspot.

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