HONOLULU – Frank Mundus, the legendary shark fisherman said to have inspired the Captain Quint character in the movie "Jaws," has died. He was 82.
Mundus died Wednesday at The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu after a heart attack, his wife said.
It was his second heart attack in four days. He suffered the earlier one Sept. 6 at Kona International Airport after returning from a business trip to New York.
Mundus had a history of heart disease, his wife, Jeanette Mundus, 46, said from their home in Naalehu on the southern tip of the Big Island. He suffered his first heart attack in 1998 and later had quadruple bypass surgery.
Known as the "Monster Man" for the size of the sharks he caught, the gregarious Mundus had an outsized personality nearly as big as his famed boat, the Cricket II.
He forged his reputation as a fearless fisherman in Montauk beginning in 1951, hunting down the world's biggest sharks.
"I had a lot of close calls," he once said. "Probably too many close calls."
In 1964, Mundus used a harpoon to snag a 4,500-pound great white. He later bagged a 17-foot-long, 3,427-pound great white by rod and reel in 1986. He later described the experience to Esquire magazine.
"After you get the fish, you turn around and look at the fish, and you feel sorry for the fish because he's your opponent," Mundus recalled. "I always feel good that I won, but I feel sorry for the one who lost."
On his Web site, Mundus said events from the 1964 catch influenced Peter Benchley, who wrote "Jaws." But Benchley maintained that Quint was a composite character.
The best-selling book was turned into the 1975 film, a blockbuster that left many beachgoers thinking twice about taking a dip in the ocean.
Mundus, who was born in Long Branch, N.J. in 1925, called "Jaws" the "funniest and the stupidest" movie he had ever seen and said he some things in common with Quint such as similar fishing techniques.
Jeanette Mundus said her husband actively promoted shark conservation starting in the 1960s. He pushed the use of less damaging hook varieties that allow fishermen to catch and release the fish.
"A lot of people over the years have thought of him just as a hunter of sharks," Jeanette Mundus said. "But he did try to preserve them."
Mundus retired to Hawaii in 1991 after a lifetime of fishing. He didn't regularly fish for sharks off Hawaii, his wife said.