Sport fishing in Montauk takes the ultimate turn, saving sharks

Historic Montauk Marine Basin
John Bell
In 1951 a young Frank Mundus settled in Montauk and got the idea to offer charter fishing for sharks. Nobody paid much attention to him. But by the time Mundus and team harpooned a 4500-pound great white, in 1964, anglers were paying serious attention, as well as a writer named Peter Benchley. The movie 'Jaws' was released in 1975 and everybody wanted to come to Montauk to go Monster Fishing for sharks. Big money tournaments started to take hold.

Cut to the late 1990’s, when disturbing videos started to appear. Sharks were shown being finned alive by foreign commercial fishermen. They were being killed not by the thousands, but by the millions, to provide fins for shark fin soup for the growing Asian market. Shark populations started to decline, and by the mid 2000s were no longer sustainable.

Before he died in 2006, Benchley said, 'Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today. Sharks don't target human beings, and they certainly don't hold grudges.' And Frank Mundus pleaded for the use of circle hooks, regretting ruthless practices and becoming a conservationist.

Today the great apex predators of the ocean face extinction, and so do the charter boat captains who catch them.

That’s why Carl Darenberg, owner of Montauk Marine Basin, artist April Gornik, and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, working with the Montauk Boatmen, Inc., the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, OCEARCH, the Shark Brothers, and Mote Marine Laboratory are proud to present Shark’s Eye.

'All sharks caught in this tournament will be released and only circle hooks can be used', Carl Darenberg said. Eligible mako, thresher and blue sharks will be fitted with satellite tracking tags, which will monitor their movements after release. The anglers who catch them get to name three tagged sharks, and a fourth will be named by Montauk school children. The public will be able to follow these fish online via the OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker.

To ensure a highly competitive, exciting and informative event for both anglers and the general public, in addition to satellite tagging of certain fish, a system of best practices and modern catch and release protocols have been engineered into this tournament format to maximize the post-release welfare and survivability of all sharks caught during this competition. These methods include the mandatory use of inline circle hooks to help prevent internal hooking, heavy tackle and line strengths to reduce a shark's time on the line, and other specific handling procedures designed to ensure angler safety and healthy shark releases. Anglers and Observers will receive personal training on these methods, prior to competition.

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) is providing $10,000 in prize money and April Gornik is providing an original work of art to the winner.

However, everybody wins. That’s because all profits from this tournament will go to charity!

There will be fun and excitement for the entire family all weekend long featuring a film and music festival, along with interactive exhibits attended by sponsors, notable personalities and organizations. Onshore activities surrounding the tournament will provide a unique opportunity for all ages to enjoy a beautiful weekend in Montauk, while being treated to an engaging and entertaining look at modern marine and shark conservation.

For more information on the next chapter in Montauk fishing lore, 'Shark’s Eye — a fishing tournament designed to save sharks', visit Sharks Eye Tournament.