Conti is one of the few remaining longline fishermen in the area and among a handful of commercial fishermen left in a once-thriving community that cast anchor more than 100 years ago in the backbay area. It's the place just south of John F. Kennedy Boulevard, near the causeway entrance of this Jersey Shore resort, where immigrants once were relegated.
Now that the spot is considered a desirable waterfront area, resort developers lurk like hungry sharks. At the same time, some of the younger generation are moving away to less-arduous occupations.
Fearing they could lose the soul of the fishing haven left by their ancestors - the eating places, docks, boatyards, bait-and-tackle shops, and fishing cottages - descendants of those intrepid settlers began taking steps about five years ago to preserve and promote their heritage.
They formed a coalition of residents and business owners to raise money for a monument and for new signs, and they launched a fall maritime festival, Harborfest.
The municipality kicked in with infrastructure improvements, such as recently completed wooden walkways and lighting.
Some hope one day to set up a museum dedicated to Sea Isle's maritime past.
Conti recalls that his father, Aneillo - after arriving from Italy in 1899 at age 10 aboard a sailing schooner - got a job at the famous Fulton Fish Market in New York, unloading fish boxes that were marked "Sea Isle."
Eventually, in 1930, Aneillo Conti brought his wife and baby to the town, Carmen Conti said, because "he wanted to see where all the fish were coming from."
At one time, Conti contends, as many as 30 or 40 boats berthed in Sea Isle plied the waters commercially. These days, only about a dozen are left.
Conti's son, Carmen Jr., 42, of Upper Township, uses the family's 42-foot boat to go as far as 30 miles out to sea for flounder, sea bass, lobster, cod, and other species to supply to Carmen's restaurant.
He also operates a bait-and-tackle shop on the premises. But he hopes his own son, CJ, 8, explores other career options when he grows up.
"It's interesting to be the third generation in your family doing a job, but it's a tough business. When it's good," Carmen Conti Jr. said, "it can be great, but when it's a bad year, it's real bad."
Kim Gibson, owner of the nearby Braca Cafe, the latest incarnation of his family's longtime Sea Isle enterprise, which at one time included fishing, is among those who began rallying for Fish Alley.
He says the most noticeable promotion has been the 40-foot-tall archway sign near the 42d Place Canal, off John F. Kennedy Boulevard, which welcomes visitors to "Historic Fish Alley."
Nearby, a granite monument tells the story of the area's development as a working seaport, listing the names of the families who are part of the legacy.
A new boardwalk along the canal allows visitors to see the harbor and the array of docked vessels, which range in size from 18 feet to 70 feet.
In October, the city will celebrate the fifth year of its Sea Isle City Harborfest, held annually on the first Saturday.
Gibson said the idea of Fish Alley came about when he and the other grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the early Sea Isle settlers - whose often serendipitous arrival in the resort happened soon after they had migrated from Italy through Ellis Island around the turn of the 20th century - began worrying that their legacy could be lost.
"I think people here saw what's happened to the fishing tradition in places like Gardner's Basin in Atlantic City and Ottens Harbor in Wildwood, where development has squeezed down the operations over time," Gibson said. "They didn't want to lose what we have here because this is - this is family."
That sentiment is echoed by Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike's Seafood and Dock down the block from Carmen's.
Monichetti said he was inspired about five years ago to start talking with his cohorts about preservation, after the development of condos along the canal began to shrink the already small seaport.
"I just felt at the time we can't afford to lose any more of our heritage, of our legacy," Monichetti said. His grandparents Lodovico and Rosina Monichetti arrived in Sea Isle by train in 1911. Their journey from Ellis Island ended there because it was as far as their train ticket would take them.
Over the summer, the family's business celebrated its 100th season, serving as many as 2,000 seafood dinners a night in its restaurant.
Monichetti and Gibson began rallying support for the construction of some sort of memorial, quickly raising tens of thousands of dollars.
Monichetti said he would also like to see a small museum that would tell the story of the immigrants and their fishing traditions.
Officials may be receptive to the plan because the Fish Alley moniker is helping to make Sea Isle - whose 2,100 population swells to as many as 40,000 in summer - a destination for people who want to have a look at the region's maritime history, Mayor Leonard Desiderio said.
Fish Alley helps promote the barrier-island resort from "beach to bay," Desiderio said, and ultimately strengthens the appeal of the entire town from an economic standpoint. Gibson, whose business is closer to the beachfront than the bay, agrees.
"It brings people to town," he said, "and they end up exploring the entire town, not just Fish Alley."
Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382