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History of Montauk Shark Fishing

2541 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  DoctorFish
This is a great article for anyone who loves the sport...


Although the charter fishing in Montauk began in 1932, shark fishing did not begin as a sport until the early 1960's. Captain Frank Mundus first pioneered the sport of shark fishing, using his "secret" special chum.

"Nobody really caught sharks until Frank," said Captain Bob Tuma, a local charter fisherman. "We all just caught them accidentally until he came along and made the sport popular."

Before Mundus came to Montauk, around 1950, from Brielle, New Jersey, nobody wanted to catch sharks. Tourists were more interested in swordfish, tuna, striped bass and bluefish.

"There were too many sharks out there - and nobody wanted them," said Tuma.

What changed the views of the charter captains, was the overnight success of the movie "JAWS", in 1972 - since the character "QUINT" was modeled after Frank Mundus. "We started to go shark fishing after "JAWS" came out because we started getting calls, and everyone thought it would be exciting to catch sharks," said Tuma.

Sharks, especially makos, also became popular for eating. Once they got into the market and were worth money, all the fishermen wanted to catch them.

Back then, boats had to only go within a twenty mile range to catch sharks. Today, since so many have been depleted over the years, boats sometimes have to travel thirty - forty miles offshore. But, in Mundus's heyday, there were so many sharks of all species abounding, that he asked another captain, Rowland Clark, of Shelter Island to come help him handle his overload.

"In the early 1960's, Frank had more shark charters than he could handle," recalls Clark. "My brother and I built the "WAHOO", which was almost a copy of Frank's boat, "THE CRICKET." When Clark moved it to Montauk in 1966, he said, "There were so many sharks, that when we'd go swordfishing, in early June, we'd see about a hundred sharks swimming around the boat."

Clark explained that one of the reasons for the great popularity of shark fishing was that "it was a guaranteed way to catch big game fish - since white marlin were hard to get, and swordfish and tuna were also harder to catch. But we always hooked at least five sharks a trip."

He said every year his boat would take in all the sharks they wanted. June was a good month for blue sharks, and the end of July was a good time for makos, in the Butterfish Hole. People caught blue sharks for action, and although some tried to eat them, they never caught on as a food fish.

Fishermen went from cod fishing in the spring, to sharks in June. With a ten knot boat - about the average speed of a typical charter boat in those days - it would take about two to three hours from the dock to the Butterfish Hole, the center of the shark fishing grounds. Sharks, makos, duskies, tigers, blues and browns, and on rare occasions a white, were caught on rod and reel, while some of the larger specimens were harpooned. Clark claims to have been the first captain to bring a tiger shark into Montauk, weighing 570 pounds.

Mundus, who was known as the "MONSTER MAN," captured his first record great white shark on June 6, 1964, off Amagansett, by harpooning it. The mounted head is still on display at Salivar's bar. In 1986, He caught another record 3,450 pound great white off of Block Island, this time on rod and reel (the largest fish of any kind ever caught on standard fishing tackle). The head of this fish, as well as some great pictures showing the whale that the fish was feasting on, is in the Johnny Marlin restaurant.

"He became an expert at catching great whites, because of his secret chum," said Russell Drumm, author of an upcoming book, "The Slick of the Cricket," based on Mundus's shark exploits, which is due out this summer.

Drumm said that Montauk became known as one of the first places in the country to catch sharks. "Mundus discovered that sharks were exciting and people wanted to catch them," he said. "He was also good at promoting himself. Frank would make a spectacle - hanging the sharks over the side of his boat as he came in the harbor. The tourists went wild."

Clark added that "Frank was competitive - since he was the King of Shark fishing - he didn't like people catching more than him. But he took an underutilized species and made it into a profitable business."

Carl Darenberg Jr, an owner of the Montauk Marine Basin explained that the first few shark tournaments were organized by members of the "Fin and Feathers Club" of Long Island. His marina started running the tournaments in 1974, and since then it has grown to about eighty boats a year.

"For the first twenty years, we just gave away trophies and tackle, but as the tournaments grew in popularity, we began offering cash prizes for different categories," said Darenberg. The Montauk Marine Basin now gives away $25,000 in prizes at their annual tournament each June. Categories include largest makos, blue sharks and largest overall shark.

The next shark tournament to come into existence was sponsored by the Montauk Captain's Association, now known as the Montauk Boatman's and Captain's Association, in 1979, followed by Star Island Yacht Club in 1986. Star Island now sponsors two shark tournaments each year, the regular one in June, which is for a variety of species and categories, and a mako only event scheduled for August.

One major change over the years has been the increasing environmental awareness of the tournaments. Years ago, during the early tourneys, discarded shark carcasses were thrown in dumpsters after they were brought in and weighed. During the past ten years, there has been an emphasis on tag and release.

"We have learned that getting a rough estimate of the size and weight of the fish is better than destroying it just to show off at the dock," said Darenberg. "We only keep the big ones, and release the smaller sharks.

He said rules and guidelines must now be followed, on size and weight of sharks. The emphasis on tag and release is necessary to combat the recent depletion of sharks in the waters of the Atlantic, and to allow the various species to replenish themselves. All tournaments now incorporate rules regarding the minimum weight for a shark to qualify, as well as how many fish a participant can weigh in on a given day.

In addition, there has been a recent emphasis of donating the leftover sharks to the local food pantries and shelters. Four years ago, Star Island Yacht Club introduced this idea with the assistance of FISH UNLIMITED, a national fishing conservation group based on Shelter Island. Environmentalists are looking at creative ways of cooking blue sharks - the most commonly caught shark during the tournaments - which are then distributed throughout the east end.

"It's a shame to waste this meat, when we can use it to feed people," said Sam Gershowitz, owner of the Star Island Yacht Club.

Throughout the years, scientists headed by marine biologist Jack Casey, recently retired head of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Naragansett, Rhode Island laboratory, have been on hand at all of the tournaments, dissecting the sharks. Their findings have been invaluable in the study of the habits and patterns of sharks in the northeast.
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Here's the Link to the book about Mundus; "In the Slick of The Cricket"
I somehow missed that one in the bookstore. I guess it never made the bestseller list. Thanks for the review. Now I'm going to order it from
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