By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Beverly Mick recalled a special place just outside Sea Isle City where she would fish or crab while enjoying picturesque views of the back bays, beautiful sunsets and an abundance of wildlife.
The no-frills fishing spot along Sunks Creek was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, robbing Mick of the tranquil hideaway she enjoyed virtually every weekend for about 15 years.
On Sunday, she was back at Sunks Creek, accompanied by her daughter, Ashley Smith, and granddaughters Madelyn, 6, and Emma, 5.
But now, the rickety old wooden bulkhead where Mick would fish in the pre-Sandy days has been replaced by a newly built fishing pier that is quickly becoming a treasured hangout for anglers, crabbers and nature lovers.
“I was so excited to come back because I hadn’t been here for a long time. This time, I can bring my family,” said Mick, a resident of Sewell, Gloucester County.
As Mick cast a fishing line into the placid water, her granddaughter Madelyn pointed excitedly at two crabs that the family caught using a dead fish as bait.
When asked if the crabs would be their dinner, Madelyn exclaimed, “Probably.”
The new fishing pier was built as part of Cape May County’s $12.7 million reconstruction of Sea Isle Boulevard into an elevated roadway protected from the coastal flooding that often inundates the low-lying barrier island.
Visible from the roadway, the fishing pier is not far from the bridge leading into Sea Isle. Simply turn onto the off-ramp marked by a large sign for Minmar Marine and then make a quick right to follow a bumpy, dirt road that skirts the marshlands for about a quarter-mile.
A small brown sign pointing in the direction of the dirt road says “Sunks Creek Recreation Area.”
The fishing pier is served by a small stone parking lot. The pier itself consists of a long concrete walkway, a metal railing that makes it safer for children and a handicap-accessible area.
Avid fisherman Mike Finacaro, who, like Mick, remembers the old wooden bulkhead at Sunks Creek destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, is becoming a fan of the new pier.
“The sunsets down here are beautiful,” Finacaro said while soaking up the views of the back bays and lush green wetlands that unfold for miles.
Finacaro, who lives in Washington Township, Gloucester County, has a family vacation home in Sea Isle. His girlfriend, Terry Matczak, of West Deptford Township, Gloucester County, and her daughter, Lacy Matczak, were fishing and crabbing with him on Sunday.
“It’s very peaceful here, definitely,” Lacy Matczak said. “If you get here early in the morning, you could have this whole place to yourself.”
Although Finacaro wasn’t having any luck fishing, Lacy and her mother had caught eight crabs that likely were going to end up on the dinner table.
Finacaro has fished at Sunks Creek for about 15 years. He said the new fishing pier is a dramatic improvement over the old wooden bulkhead.
“Now that you have all of this, it’s going to be more popular,” he predicted of the new pier. “Before, when it was a little hole in the wall, it was more of a secret.”