I clearly remember sitting on the porch of our summer rental house in Long Beach Island, NJ, with my grandfather when I was 9 or 10, listening to him tell me about a freak storm that came through when he was young that caused the ocean to meet the bay right in the same place where the house was located. I almost didn’t believe it. I remember not being able to get my head around the idea of the entire island covered by water. Picturing the arcade where I played skeeball, the bulkhead where we crabbed and caught snapper bluefish, and the harbor where the party boats we went on every summer at Barnegat Light for fluke completely submerged didn’t make sense. I never thought I’d see that happen in my lifetime, but thanks to superstorm Sandy, I did. I’ve been lucky enough to fish in a lot of places across the country and meet lots of great new friends along the way. But no matter where an angler’s been, I’ve never met one that doesn’t look forward to getting back to home water. The Atlantic, bays, and rivers along the New Jersey coast are my home waters, where I learned how to surfcast, caught my first saltwater fish on the fly, my first striper on a strip of squid, and battled my first tuna on light tackle. For the last two days I’ve driven through the towns along the coast, checking in on the coffee shops that my friends and I hit before a morning on the jetty or the bait shops where I buy ice before a day out on my boat. The destruction here, considering that New Jersey was not prepared for a hit of this magnitude, is unfathomable. I helped those I could along the way, but the amount of help my home waters need to get back to normal seems impossible to conjure at the moment. I’m hoping within the next few weeks my camera captures people fishing again instead of more chaos. –Joe Cermele (pictured here)Point Pleasant Beach, NJ – In the days after Hurricane Sandy, shore communities have become war zones, where aside from helping those who have lost their homes, the police and National Guard have created check points and set up patrols to thwart rampant looting.
Shark River Hills, NJ – This brand-new 40-foot cruiser floated about 500 yards up the road from the marina where it was up on blocks during the full-moon high tide that coincided with Sandy.
Waretown, NJ – Sentiments like this can be found on boards covering windows and storefronts all along the Jersey Coast. This one is quite tame.
Belmar, NJ – I’ve spent many nights fishing the surf along Ocean Drive in Belmar. This was taken not far from Shark River Inlet.
Whiting, NJ – This is a common sight in the Garden State right now, though the fuel situation is improving. Between the need to fill cars, emergency vehicles, generators, and chainsaws, gas stations simply couldn’t keep up.
Forked River, NJ – Old Glory still standing, but showing just how nasty the wind got along Barnegat Bay.
Berkley Heights, NJ – “Striper Blues” stuck in the mud at the demolished Trixie’s Marina where I grew up renting wooden boats to go crabbing. This thick bay mud is covering much of the coast along the west side of Barnegat Bay.
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ – On every street in Point Pleasant and the surrounding communities, homeowners pile what was destroyed by sand and water on the curb. This is the main drag that parallels the boardwalk.
Toms River, NJ – Another chopper crosses the bay to the barrier island where towns like Seaside, Ortley Beach, and Lavalette are ravaged and remain largely inaccessible.
Shark River Hills, NJ – The garage that acted as a resident’s home taxidermy studio air-dries. Many of the mounts and skins in the garage, including this bear, were submerged in 5 feet of saltwater.
Forked River, NJ – This boat was docked right next to mine. The owners chose not to pull it from its slip before Sandy hit. This is where it ended up.
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ – Jersey pride on the glass doors of a boardwalk arcade still showing evidence of how much sand was pushed up during the storm surge.
Manasquan Inlet, NJ – Mariner statue at Manasquan Inlet standing strong despite the destruction around him.
Waretown, NJ – Former site of the Holiday Beach Club Pavilion. If you look closely at the waterline to the left of the sign, you can just make out Barnegat Lighthouse across the bay. To date, no residents have been allowed to return to Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island, largely because of unstable gas lines.
Manasquan Inlet, NJ – What’s left of Alex’s Bait & Tackle right on Manasquan Inlet. I’ve bought more bags of bait here than I could count.
Shark River Hills, NJ – Floating docks throughout the state had a higher survival rate given the tides and surge than stationary docks.
Bay Head, NJ – Looting has become a major concern post Sandy. The homeowner who made this sign told me at this point he doesn’t really care if people steal the appliances and furniture he’s taken out of his demolished house, but they need to at least wait until after an insurance adjuster shows up so they can see the damage. Of course, when insurance adjuster will get to everyone is up in the air.
Belmar, NJ – The boards on the windows of this candy store on Ocean Drive directly, across the street from the Atlantic, did little to prevent storm surge from flooding the building.
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ – The parking lot of the Boardwalk Bar & Grill has become a center for donations where residents can grab food, water, clothing, and other supplies.
Shark River Hills, NJ – Somehow these two boats, which were on blocks nearly 600 yards down the street, managed to miss this home and set down on the lawn as the water receded.
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ – A Point Pleasant resident manages a little humor in a tough situation.
Shark River Hills, NJ – A fishing rod among the rubble that once was the Tiki bar at the Shark River Yacht Club.
Shark River Hills, NJ – Rods among the trashed items pulled from a home flooded during high tide the night of the hurricane.
Manasquan Inlet, NJ – Debris near Charter Boat Row at Ken’s Landing in Point Pleasant.
Shark River Hills, NJ – “Quality Time” high and dry on concrete.
Point Pleasant, NJ – The sign for the “Miss Norma K” needs a little help standing up. In the background, residents remove ruined contents of their home, which is draped in downed power lines.
Manasquan Inlet, NJ – While walking around the deserted waterfront at Manasquan Inlet I stumbled upon Dave Koeppel casting a line off the wall. Dave was the first angler I’d seen since Sandy hit. He found his way around a police barrier to make a few casts with a metal jig before officers asked him to leave. “I just had to come down to see how bad it was,” Koeppel told me. “But I had to at least bring one rod and one lure.” In the background the “Jamaica Star” party boat is returning to port after fishing, though there were only a few fishermen on board. Right now, charter captains have permission to break the inlets; recreational anglers do not.
Shark River Hills, NJ – Inside the home of a Shark River resident. Per FEMA, we had to remove all wet drywall and insulation from the home. Most walls were saturated to the 4-foot mark.
Shark River Hills, NJ – Mako jaws inside a resident’s washed-out garage.
Manasquan Inlet, NJ – Water breached the walls of Manasquan Inlet so badly during the storm, containers of squid and peanut bunker from inside Alex’s Bait & Tackle littered the street.
Shark River Hills, NJ – Volunteers help a resident remove damaged contents from their home.
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