As the waters off Hilton Head Island warm up, charters aren’t just spotting more sharks — they’re seeing some of the rarest.
This week Charter Captain Chip Michalove caught something you only see on Shark Week — a 3,000 lbs. 16-foot great white.
“There’s nothing like it. I mean jumping out of an airplane, bungee jumping, the adrenaline rush, it’s amazing,” Michalove said.
Michalove owns Outcast Sport Fishing, and set out Monday to catch a great white.
“At 4:30 in the morning, I got a text message from two of my crew members saying they were sick,” he said. “So it was just me and one other guy and I was thinking, ‘Maybe we should just postpone it to another day.’”
But something in him said to give a shot.
First, a 10-foot great white passed. They tried to hook it, but it got away.
Michalove said he was just about to give up when a 16-footer showed up.
“A 3000 lbs. animal is massive. People don’t realize just one wag of the tail can pool a 26-foot boat at that kind of clip,” he said. “After we started fighting this thing we kind of realize that it was just too much.”
He called a nearby boat for backup.
“I warned him before he got on the boat, I said, ‘Hey listen this is going to be nuts, this is gonna be something that’s going to turn your stomach when you see how wide this fish is.’” Michalove recalled.
The team pulled the great white to the side of the boat, tagged her, and sent her on her way.
“She kind of knew, ‘I’m the boss of the ocean and there’s nothing in this world I’m scared of,’” Michalove said.
In the Lowcountry, Michalove is known as the ‘Shark Whisperer.’
“I think it started when I started guaranteeing that 8-foot shark on my charters a few years ago if we didn’t catch an 8-footer the charter was free,” he said.
None of those charters have been free.
“I’ve encountered about 30 great whites in the last three or four years off Hilton Head, and not one of them has had a tag,” he said, “I think I’m tagging the first adult great whites here below New York.”
He teamed up with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in Massachusetts to help tag and research great white sharks in the Southeast.
Michalove says the population is booming in the Atlantic, while other shark species are declining.
“The tigers, the bulls, hammerheads — everything else is declining. But the great white is actually going up which is awesome,” he said.
While the population is booming, Michalove says there’s nothing to worry about. Shark attacks are very rare and there haven’t been any off of the South Carolina coast in years.