Hilton Head’s most famous fishing crew witnessed something “wild” Wednesday while out to sea.
Chip Michalove and his crew at Outcast Sport Fishing had already had a busy day off the coast of Hilton Head. They’d hooked and collected scientific samplings from two great white sharks just a few hours into their trip.
And then the magic started.
Michalove, known as the “Great White Shark Whisperer,” had his hands full with two great whites— one on the line and another circling the 26-foot boat.
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“I’ve never seen two at the same time. It was incredible,” Michalove, who has hooked and released more than 30 great whites, said.
Michalove said he had an 8-foot great white on the line when crew member Patrick Malone started yelling from the other side of the boat.
“Oh my God, this is a bigger shark than I thought!” Malone said to Michalove.
Michalove handed the line to another fisherman and darted to the other side of the boat where he found a 16-foot, 2,800-pound great white shark toying with the bait.
“We got another twice as big!” Michalove yelled.
The crew “sped up the process” of collecting DNA samples and cut the 8-foot shark loose.
“We thought for sure one was going to eat the other so we had to cut the little guy loose,” Michalove said of the 180-pound shark.
Michalove and his crew then turned their attention to the 2,800-pound “giant” circling the boat.
“He seemed so interested in checking out the boat,” Michalove said. “I think he thought it was a dead whale for a minute.”
The 16-footer circled the boat for 30 minutes, Michalove said.
“Then it got wild,” Michalove said.
A 100-pound loggerhead sea turtle popped its head out of the water, just a few feet from the shark.
“I’ve never seen a sea turtle that close to a shark before,” he said. “Usually (sea turtles) are spooked by the boat, but this sea turtle was all about it. I think if I had a ramp, he would have climbed on board.”
Michalove said he thought for sure the sea turtle was a “goner.”
But the magic of the ocean surprised him again.
“It was so cool to watch,” he said. “Every time the shark would look his way, he’d roll over and turn his shell toward the shark as a defense mechanism.”
He said the crew hooked the 16-foot shark and the turtle “witnessed the hook up.”
He even captured the encounter on video.
Michalove said he was a few miles off shore in a new spot where he recently hooked seven sharks in a single day.
“Every time we go out (to sea) now, I feel like something crazy is about to happen,” Michalove said. “There’s just so much life out there. We hooked four sharks, saw a sea turtle face a great white, and even saw two hump back whales.”
But Michalove said he stayed a safe distance away from the 50-foot hump back.
“I don’t mess with whales,” he said. “They could flip my boat and man, that’d be bad!” Michalove said between laughs.
Michalove works with scientists at the Atlantic Shark Institute and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy by placing tracking devices on the animals, taking DNA samples, and capturing video so scientists can study movement and motion.
He’s become an expert in the field, one of the only fishermen in the world to consistently catch and release great white sharks on rod-and-reel.
Shark biologist John Chisolm of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy said Michalove “deserves a lot of credit for helping (scientists) piece together the Atlantic White Shark puzzle.”
“The knowledge & experience (Michalove) has for finding these sharks is second to none,” Chisholm said on Twitter. “His ability to consistently produce results has helped us establish the Lowcountry as another area in the Western North Atlantic where we can reliably and predictably study white sharks.”
Michalove said even capturing the sharks on video helps scientists determine how many are out there.
“I’m no scientist, but I feel like now we have more great whites than tiger sharks, and I’ve always been under the impression that we had the best tiger shark fishery in the world,” he said.
“There are definitely more than 1,000 off the coast of South Carolina right now.”