mundus lands monster white off montauk
By LOU GRASSO
It was business as usual at Montauk Marine Basin early Wednesday evening, with anglers making arrangements for chum and bait for the next day's fishing for tuna at the Butterfish Hole, 14 miles south of Montauk Point. Then a radio call come that was to change the mood and the pace of activity at Montauk Marine, a major fishing and docking facility, for the next several days.
The voice was that of Capt. Frank Mundus who was piloting his famed charger boat the Cricket II, some 25 miles south of Montauk at the time. He called to ask that the Marine Basin stay open later than usual and arrange for a large capacity scale. "We have a great white shark that we're estimating is over 2,000 pounds," he radioed. "We are getting our gear together now and we'll be underway in just a bit." When asked for an estimate time of arrival, Mundus said they would be towing the huge fish and would have to see what speed they could travel before determining when they would be back at the dock.
Later the shark would weigh-in at approximately 3,500 pounds, a prime contender for a world record for a fish caught on rod and reel. The previous record for a fish taken on rod and reel was 2,664 for a shark caught in Australia. Larger sharks have been harpooned but do not qualify for International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) records.
The drama started many hours earlier as Mundus and his crew with a charter aboard, were returning from an overnight sharking trip. During their trip back they came upon a dead whale, I a prime feeding source for the sharks they saw feeding on the whale. Another charter boat, the Fish On, owned by Donnie Braddick of Montauk, was in the same area at the time. Both Braddick and Mundus offered their charters an extended trip so they could try for the sharks they saw feeding on the whale. But both groups decided they wanted to return to the dock.
The charter group aboard the Cricket II was put aboard the Fish On which returned them to the dock. Braddick then returned offshore to where the whale and the Cricket were located, anchored his boat, and was taken aboard the Cricket to join in the effort to catch a Great White.
The first hook came up at 9:30 a.m. the next day with John DeLeonardo on the rod, but the shark chewed through the leader and was gone. With each member of the crew taking turns in the chair, it was Braddick's fate to be the designated angler at the time the record smashing fish took the bait.
With Mundus at the controls of the Cricket II, and Braddick on the rod, the battle between man and shark went on for two hours before man won.
Aboard the Cricket at the time, in addition to Mundus, Braddick and DeLeonardo, were Ted Feurer and Mike Skacimubas. According to Mundus the next day, this crew was the vital ingredient in the record smashing catch. "A lot of credit has to go to the crew," he said. "Without a good crew, you simply wouldn't get the fish."
The Cricket arrived at Montauk Marine Basin about 11:30 p.m. with a large crowd on hand awaiting. Word of the catch filtered through the community swiftly, fed by some earlier radio communications about five or six large whites which were feeding on the whale.
The first attempt at weighing the huge fish was unsuccessful. A fork lift with a large boom which extended over the water, with a scale attached, was jockeyed into position by Carl Darenberg Jr. of Montauk Marine. A tail rope was attached to the fish and the boom was raised. But the head was still in the water when the boom was raised as high as it would go. The crowd broke into a chant of "Go, go, go go " as the scale went over the 2,000 mark, and then 3,000. The fish was lowered, adjustments were made to shorten the tail rope, and the boom was raised again. But this time the tail of the shark began to shred, and then the ropes snapped.
A large cargo net was brought to the scene, the net was under the shark, ropes were attached, and it was finally lifted clear of the water. The crowd bellowed their approval as the scale read 3,500, a record breaking weight, pending IGFA approval. The cargo net was weighed at 73 pounds on Sunday which would make the actual weight of the fish 3,427 pounds (~1554 kg). [17 feet (~5.2 m) long according to Montauk Pioneer]
*) According to "The Full Story" in the Montauk Pioneer of that week: "The monster took the hook around 4:30 in the afternoon with Mundus in the chair. Mundus immediately got up, Braddick sat down and the fight was on". This was the likely reason that IGFA did not approve the record. A record 547 kg shortfin mako catch by Jody Daniels on the Hustler captained by Glen Hodson on March 2, 1990, was disqualified for the same reason.
For the next two days, the atmosphere at Montauk Marine was circus-like. The shark, placed in a boat repair barn overnight Wednesday, was taken outside Thursday morning where it drew a steady stream of spectators, some even arriving by school bus. Throughout the day Mundus and Braddick were interviewed over and over, answering the same questions again and again. Friday, the early morning network programs, Good Morning America and CBS Morning News, were on hand to do live spots, and later in the morning Wes Pratt of National Marine Fisheries Service of Rhode Island was on hand to dissect the shark in an effort to gain more knowledge of the species. Information compiled by Pratt will also be valuable in the efforts to have the catch certified as a world record since he went over the shark from nose to tail, and reported there were no unusual holes (from harpoon or bullet) other than that made by the gaff. The shark had been hooked in the upper right jaw, he said.
Mundus and Braddick make up unique angling combination. Mundus, the prototype for Quint in the film JAWS, is flamboyant and unpredictable. He wears an earring in one ear, a safari hat and a belt buckle with a large shark on it. He is known as the Monster Man, a title he wears with relish and has written a book an his sharking experiences. Asked why he did not do battle with the fish himself, he chuckled: "I had to have an idiot in the chair, I ain't going to handle that idiot stick. He added: "I ain't a spring chicken. If I did fight the fish, it would have looked awful shady. We invented the game."
Braddick, who stands to go down in the record book as the, angler who caught the largest fish ever on rod land reel if the IGFA approves the catch, is new to the spotlight of publicity. The son of a veteran Montauk skipper Frank Braddick, he is chartering his own boat this year for the first season. "I almost blew it," he said to Mundus Thursday morning. "I was on the boat with the engines running and ready to go out when someone said it would be a better idea to stick around here today." That was good advice, since Braddick, as the angler, was an important part of the record setting shark catch story.
Was this his greatest thrill as an angler? Not really. "It certainly rank high on the list, but I think by greatest thrill was the 1112 pound (~504 kg) giant tuna I caught last year. I am a tuna fisherman at heart."
According to Mundus, there were five or six large sharks feeding on the whale, one even larger than the one taken. Each had a different marking -such as a white tip on a fin- so it was possible to determine the difference. More than a dozen times during the night while they were tied up to the whale a shark came up and hit the bottom of the boat. "It came up and you'd hear a "boom' and it would go down an later it did the same thing. I didn't worry, though, I got 2-inch planking on the bottom so it was strong enough."
Friday afternoon, after the head was taken away for a mount and the carcass was removed, all that remained were photos and memories. One memory brought a laugh from Mundus, the heartiest chuckle that he uttered during the media blitz. "You want to hear the climax." he asked this reporter. "I have been answering the
phone all day. As soon as I put it down it rings again [The same had been happening for two days at Montauk Marine, with staff there answering calls from media around the world.] Then I got this call from a guy who said he wanted the carcass. I said to the guy "you mean you want the head for a mount." The guy says, "no, I want the whole fish."
"What are you going to do with the whole carcass," I asked. The guy says he has some chemicals that would preserve it. He said he was from a lure company. He said he would give me $25,000 for it. I jumped in the truck and rushed down here, and there was the head in one spot the tall in another, and nothing in between. So much for the $25,000, easy come easy go."
Well, Frank," we said, "You said there is a bigger on out there. Just go out there and catch it."
'Yeah," chuckled Mundus, "that's what I ought to do." He chuckled loudly, a real hones-to-goodness laugh, as he pulled away in his truck.