A diverse spot in central Long Island Sound that has it all
Southwest Reef is an approximately 2-mile long, 600-foot wide pile of rocks in the middle of an expanse of sandy hills and muddy depressions in central Long Island Sound. It’s a very accessible spot, about one mile from both Clinton and Westbrook Harbors and it holds every species of fish that swims in the Sound. This massive underwater ridge presents as a huge tidal obstruction and, as a result, tide rips and screaming currents are the norm here, making it a magnet for large striped bass, bruiser tog, doormat fluke along with millions of porgies and sea bass.
“Think of the rockiest place on earth, and then add more rocks,” said Captain TJ Karbowski, skipper of Rock and Roll Charters running out of Clinton CT, “that’s pretty much the makeup of Southwest Reef.” TJ went on to describe the spot in greater detail, he told me that most of the guys who fish there regularly break it down into four regions, ‘Inner Southwest’, ‘Southwest Proper’, ‘Outer Southwest’ and the southern end is referred to as the ‘Double Humps’, if you look on the chart you’ll see two distinct humps that mark the southern end of the reef. “You can find any type of structure you want, gradual rises from 50 feet to 25, or straight down cliffs that go from 30 to 90 feet,” added TJ, “It’s a really cool and productive spot.”
“The one tough part about fishing Southwest Reef is the amount of lobster gear out there, it’s everywhere! But DEEP makes everyone pull their gear sometime in September and that’s my favorite time to fish it. But you can fish it anytime, just be careful because the tide runs so hard over the reef that it pulls nearly all of the pot buoys underwater – trolling is impossible. Drifting is the typical method here – bait or jigs will both clean up on multiple species,” said TJ. He told me that the intensity of the bottom fishing there seems to follow the abundance of juvenile muscles on the rocks. He said, “Some years, the porgies are so abundant that you can’t keep them off your hooks, and when it’s like that they are usually all spitting up baby muscles all over the deck.” He also suggested that if you go there looking for sea bass and you’re only pulling shorts, to keep moving until you find bigger fish – it’s been his experience that the larger sea bass don’t mingle with their smaller cousins.
Southwest Reef is also a phenomenal striper spot, which should come as no surprise given its topography and resultant tide rips. In fact, it is widely believed that the world record was taken here by Greg Myerson on August 4, 2011. Three-wayed live eels are the preferred method for most of the anglers fishing the reef for striped bass. However many anglers do well fishing live bunker, jigs and large topwater plugs as well. And it’s not just a spot for giant bass either, bass of all sizes line up on the reef to take advantage of its boiling rips and wild topography.
“It’s a great bail out spot,” TJ told me, “It’s saved many tough trips for me when other places were not producing. There’s literally always something there to catch!” Southwest Reef fishes well throughout the entire season, from May to November, and whether you’re looking for fluke on the subtle rises, sea bass on the deep drops, tog on the gnarly ledges, stripers in the rips or porgies anywhere in between, odds are you’re going to find what you’re looking for.