December marks the first month of great white shark season in South Carolina, and one of Hilton Head Island’s best known charter captains started it off with a big catch.
Chip Michalove of Outcast Sport Fishing caught a 10-foot, female great white shark off the coast of Hilton Head on Friday morning.
Michalove said he hooked two great whites on Friday with his small fishing crew, but they lost the first one before getting it close to the boat.
“The water temperature dropped faster than usual this year and I think great whites have actually been (in the area) for two weeks,” Michalove said.
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Michalove has hooked 25 great whites in the last three years. Last year, he gained national attention for hooking three in a single day.
The veteran fisherman was able to reel in the monstrous fish close enough so the crew could place a tag on the shark that helps scientists track the animal.
“This sweet lady never showed any signs of aggression,” Michalove said. “She spoiled us. Some of the sharks will snap at your arms or carve their teeth in the boat. Amazing the personality differences with these animals.
Michalove was able to place a satellite tag on the fish, which means the shark can be tracked in real time on the new app Sharktivity powered by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in Chatham, Mass., where Michalove has teamed with scientists to further study the ocean’s fiercest predator.
He named the shark Amy after his neighbor Amy Key Prater, of Hilton Head, who beat breast cancer.
“Amy went through hell with a double mastectomy, radiation, chemo and multiple surgeries,” Michalove said on Facebook. “Congratulations on beating it! I know you help and inspire many (who) are going down that same road ... this one’s for you.”
Michalove’s world has revolved steadily around great whites for the last 15 years. For 12 straight winters, he’s ventured off to sea in his 26-foot charter boat on what other local fishermen called a “great white goose chase” in attempt to catch the apex predator of the Atlantic.
From all the clues and research he’s gathered, great white sharks visit the Carolinas region in the winter, when water temperature is just right. For all those winters, Michalove followed every lead, picking up clues every time a great white was photographed in the region. He took notes on bait, equipment, water depth, temperature, location — every detail he could gather.
And he finally caught one in January, 2014 — the first caught and photographed in the region.
The more time Michalove spends studying great whites, the more he’s convinced there are more out there than we think.
“There’s just not enough science about these sharks out there, so the goal of all of this is to catch more and learn as much as we can about them,” he previously told the Island Packet.
“I would say there’s over a thousand off the South Carolina coast in the winter,” he said. “They’ve tagged more than 100 in Massachusetts and I haven’t seen one of the tagged sharks. That tells me there are a lot more out there than we think.”
Port Royal Sound, in particular, has been identified by scientists as a hotspot for sharks, because of its high salinity and abundant food supply. Because great whites are only here in the winter time, there has never been a great white shark attack in South Carolina waters, according to SCDNR.
After a successful first day on the water, Michalove has high hopes for this season. He landed seven great whites and tagged six last year.