Nearly everyone on the East End has heard the tale. One of the greatest shark fishermen in the world sailed out of Montauk. He made international news in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s for catching sharks weighing thousands of pounds. He was the inspiration for Quint, the shark-hunting character in Jaws. He was Frank, Pat Mundus’s father.
Pat, now the executive director at the Shelter Island Historical Society, has nothing but fond memories of her father, though he was known to be cantankerous and always looking for, in his words, ways to aggravate people. In April she told a crowd at Peconic Landing in Greenport about life with the captain of the Cricket II, the boat she was brought home to from Southampton Hospital, and the boat where her father made his living taking people out to fish. (Pat, herself, has retired after a lifetime at sea. After earning her stripes at the Merchant Marine Academy, she worked as a captain on oil tankers.)
Pat remembers her father, who died in 2008 at the age of 83, as not just a fisherman, but also a conservationist. He pioneered the tagging of sharks in 1962 in order to study their migratory patterns. He invented the shark cage and, according to her, he devoted his life to the circle hook, which hooks a fish in the mouth rather than the gut. Thus fewer fish are fatally injured when they are released. And, she said, he hated shark tournaments.
But it was his landing of a 4,500-pound great white in 1964 that set off the craze for shark fishing. among charter-boat captains in Montauk and beyond. Pat remembers a film crew always being around.
Despite his swashbuckling ways, for Frank, safety was the first concern. In 1951, soon after he moved to Montauk, the Pelican, a charter fishing boat, went down in Montauk Harbor because too many people were on board. Frank was there to see the wreck. Forty-five people including the captain were killed. “In later years,” Pat said of her father, “he regretted how popular shark fishing had become.”