The name Frank Mundus may draw blank stares from those unfamiliar with the world of sport fishing, but anyone who watched the 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws and caught the late Robert Shaw’s performance as the crusty shark hunter Quint, will get an idea of who he was.
A fixture in Montauk since moving there in 1951 to run a charter fishing business, Mundus set his sights on hunting these apex predators, which were more plentiful to catch than the bluefish he was originally going to pursue.
Casting off at the helm of the 42-foot Cricket II, the New Jersey native started captaining what he called “Monster Fishing” tours. A vividly eccentric character prone to wearing a hoop earring, shark tooth necklace and Australian slouch hat, Mundus enhanced his reputation by catching a 4,500-pound great white shark by harpoon in 1964.
He upped the ante considerably in 1986 when he and fellow angler Donnie Braddick landed a 3,427-pound great white shark about 28 miles off Montauk. It was and continues to be the world record for the largest fish ever caught by rod and reel. Mundus’ brush with Hollywood came about when he and author Peter Benchley, who wrote the book that Jaws was based on, went on shark hunting expeditions prior to the publishing of Benchley’s 1974 novel. While the writer denied that Quint was based on Mundus, Shaw admitted the portrayal was based on the real-life fisherman.
Mundus died of complications from a heart attack on Sept. 10, 2008, the day he returned to Hawaii after spending the summer on the East End. Ironically, he spent the last few years of his life as a shark conservationist, advocating his fellow fisherman to catch and release sharks, going so far as to release the 2005 pro-shark conservation children’s book, White Shark Sam Meets the Monster Man.
Dave Gil de Rubio is the editor of Garden City Life and Floral Park Dispatch. He also heavily contributes to Long Island Weekly, regularly writing music, entertainment and sports features. In his time at Anton Media Group, Dave Gil de Rubio has won several New York Press Association and Press Club of Long Island awards.