Frank Mundus came to be known as Monster Man for his role in the 1950s and ‘60s as a pioneer of “monster fishing” — hunting sharks weighing as much as a ton, or more, like African game. The degree of skill, showmanship, and violence that this involved is said to have inspired the character Quint in Jaws in 1974, although the book’s author, Peter Benchley, never acknowledged that.
Setting out from Montauk Harbor on August 4,1986, Mundus’s Cricket II returned two days later towing a 3,427-pound, 17-foot-long great white shark landed – by rod and reel – by Donnie Braddick, captain of the Fish On. About 20 miles off Montauk, Mundus and Braddick had spotted sharks feeding on a dead whale, sent their charter guests back to shore on other boats, and, with the younger Captain Braddick in the fighting chair, endeavored to land the great white, which they named “Big Guy.”
The fish put up a good but futile fight; it was so large that hoisting its full length up from the water back at the Montauk Marine Basin required a number of improvised steps until: “up from the deep it came, danger incarnate, but now seeming to huddle in the yellow polypropylene net, as though afraid of the crowd squealing at the sight of its mortified grin,” Russell Drumm wrote in In the Slick of the Cricket.
Today there is a photo hanging at Salivar’s restaurant of Captain Braddick walking out to sea on top of the floating dead whale while sharks are circling nearby. Captain Mundus, in his autobiography, Fifty Years a Hooker, published a similar photo of himself. Also at Salivar’s: the head mount of a 4,500-pound great white that Mundus caught in 1964 using a harpoon. “Even the Guinness Book of Records acknowledged this fish as one of the biggest white sharks taken commercially,” Mundus wrote.
Captain Mundus promoted the use of circle hooks to allow fishermen to release the sharks they caught and became something of a conservationist before his death in 2008. And, as shark populations have dwindled in the past half century, recreational shark fishing has become somewhat less barbaric than in its earliest days — as well as more closely regulated.