Captain has conquered lifelong goal of catching great whites; just don’t ask for his secret
A great white shark just under 10 feet long comes to the surface before being released Tuesday off Hilton Head Island. Courtesy Outcast Sport Fishing
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
In the early 1990s, a number of sea turtles washed up on the beach of Hilton Head Island, with definitive bite marks from large sharks leaving no doubt of the cause of death.
The question was, what species of shark was responsible for the turtles’ demise?
Chip Michalove, then a teenager attending Hilton Head High School, had a differing opinion than the general consensus that tiger sharks were responsible for attacking the turtles. He suspected something much larger.
“Just by looking at the bite, it didn’t take any biologist to tell it wasn’t a tiger shark,” Michalove said Friday. “Right then I thought we had white sharks going by. I remember thinking we’ve got them out there, these people are just misdiagnosing the bite.”
From there, Michalove, a native of Louisville, Ky., who moved to Hilton Head Island as an 11-year-old, became determined to learn whether the renowned great white shark occurred off the South Carolina coast.
“The drive to see one was pretty high at that point,” Michalove said.
In 2000, then Capt. Michalove opened a charter fishing business, Outcast Sport Fishing, which provided him the means to really search for great whites off the coast of Hilton Head.
He became a shark-fishing specialist – in the early years of his business even offering his customers a giant shark guarantee, promising a refund was due if an 8-footer such as a tiger or hammerhead wasn’t caught and released.
In about 2002, Michalove really ramped up his efforts to locate, catch and release a great white off Hilton Head.
“I was putting together the puzzle,” Michalove said. “I made it my part-time job. I just made a plan of attack, what water temperature, water depth, finding the time frame when they would be in the area and what would be my best chances to see one.
“I was kind of studying from everyone else’s experiences of seeing one. If you put the time in and you’re passionate about it and driven toward it you can accomplish it.”
About three years ago, Michalove completed the puzzle of precisely where and when to find the great whites, but don’t ask him for any real details. He is very protective of the species he has grown to love.
“I really want to protect this species,” he said.
Michalove discovered finding the great white sharks was one accomplishment, but hooking them up and getting them to the boat by rod-and-reel was another matter altogether.
“How do you land something that size?” queried Michalove. “Nobody’s ever done it down here so there’s nothing to go on. At first we missed a lot of fish. The tackle we use for tiger sharks doesn’t hold up for these animals.”
After several years of frustrating winter time trips with no success, Michalove hooked up with his first great white on Jan. 29, 2014 while fishing by himself but he didn’t catch and release the shark.
Michalove ramped up the tackle, and about two months later, he caught his first great white in March, 2014.
“There was a lot of trial and error there,” Michalove said. “I had to learn how to stop a fish of that size.”
Now that Michalove is dialed in on exactly where, when and how to catch the great whites, the encounters and catch-and-releases have been surprisingly common.
In less than three years – 33 months to be exact – Michalove has released nine great whites off the Hilton Head coast, not including the ones he couldn’t slow down.
One such case of Michalove not being able to slow one down came on Tuesday, when the biggest great white he has seen in local waters, estimated to weigh over 3,000 pounds, took a bait near his 26-foot Glacier Bay center console.
“She ripped off about 400 yards of line on a slow swim and didn’t even know she was hooked,” Michalove said. “I had a massive amount of pressure on the line. I hooked her right at the boat, she wasn’t panicky, she was just slowly swimming away.”
But the hook pulled, and after that disappointment, Michalove and crew nearly headed in. But they put the baits back out and soon caught and released a great white he estimated to measure nearly 10 feet in length, the only male Michalove has caught.
The male became the third of nine sharks Michalove has implanted with an acoustic tag before releasing.
“Some were too chaotic to tag,” Michalove said.
The acoustic tags provide valuable information to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, based in Chatham, Mass.
The acoustic tags enable the sharks to be tracked, and breaching the surface isn’t necessary for them to be located.
“There are receivers in the ocean from Maine to Miami,” Michalove said. “When the fish swims past the receiver, it logs into the database. The fish just has to swim within a few hundred yards of a receiver (to be detected).”
The frequency he has encountered the apex predators of the Atlantic Ocean off the southern South Carolina coast, and the number he believes are out there in the winter months are surprising.
“There are over 1,000 that are here in the colder months, between North Carolina and Florida, in this general region, the Southeast,” Michalove said. “For years I thought we just had a few, I had no idea the population was that big.”
Michalove stresses the occurrence of the great whites in local waters is nothing for the general public to be concerned about.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” Michalove said. “Nobody’s in the cold water in the winter anyway. We’ve never had a shark fatality in this state in the modern era. The odds of getting bitten are millions to one, the odds of dying are zero.”
Michalove has enjoyed learning about great whites over the years, and is getting confident in finding and catching them.
“It’s been a fun process,” he said. “If you would have told me five years ago, I would catch multiple great whites in a winter, I would have told you I’m going to win the lottery every night this month.
“This year I’ve been once and hooked two and lost one. It’s the first time I’ve hooked two (on one trip). There’s going to be some crazy stuff this winter. I feel so confident I could almost guarantee it right now.”
Photo credit: Robert F. Bukaty AP
by Gregg Holshouser, Special to The Sun News
Look For:Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, tautog, sheepshead.
Comments: The roller-coaster ride of temperatures continues with highs in the 40s one day and soon back up to the 70s. “The fish don’t know what to do,” said Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown. Before the coldest air of the autumn pushed into the area Thursday night, McDonald had a couple of productive days earlier in the week in the Winyah Bay vicinity. On Sunday, McDonald’s crew caught 30 spotted seatrout and five red drum. On Wednesday while fishing in 57-degree water, action was a little slower with McDonald producing a mixed bag of six black drum, three flounder including two nice keepers, two red drum and one trout. McDonald caught the trout on artificial grubs and the drum on cut shrimp. A variety of species are available at area jetties with trout, black drum and tautog topping the list. Also look for red drum, sheepshead and flounder hanging out at the rocks.
Look For: Black sea bass, weakfish, tautog, flounder, croaker, whiting, black drum.
Comments: ’Tis the season to find black sea bass in good numbers on near-shore artificial reefs and hard-bottom areas. The smallish members of the grouper family make for superb table fare and have a 13-inch minimum size limit with a 7-fish per person per day bag limit. Black sea bass are eager to take a variety of baits, including cut shrimp, mullet or squid, but will also take live bait (mud minnows) or grubs. Also look for tautog, weakfish, flounder and possibly sheepshead on the near-shore reefs. Action has slowed to a crawl from Grand Strand piers. Look for a few croaker, whiting and possibly black drum, although keeper black drum have been rare. The ocean water temperature was 57 degrees Thursday afternoon at Cherry Grove Pier, and headed down.
Look For: Wahoo, dolphin, blackfin tuna, grouper, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Find a break in the windy, rough weather and there is good fishing to be found in the offshore waters. Trolling action can be excellent in December for wahoo where the Gulf Stream interacts with the Continental Shelf, with a few blackfin tuna and dolphin also in the mix. Bottom fishing is producing the usual mix of grouper, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, porgy, triggerfish, grunts and amberjack. Red snapper are off-limits in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, crappie, catfish, bass.
Comments: Rainy weather has the rivers on the rise again, and action has slowed on the Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee rivers. The Waccamaw River has produced the best this week with bream hitting lead-lined worms. Crappie are hitting minnows around brush and other structure. Catfish will take a variety of live or cut baits. “The bass fishing has been tremendous,” said Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Stalvey reports bass are hitting crankbaits, jerkbaits and plastic worms fished on the bottom.
Hundreds of fishermen lined the rails of the Apache Pier during an event last year. Jason Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
Fishing slows from inshore piers, but anglers flourishing elsewhere
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: It’s been a great autumn for anglers in the estuaries along the Grand Strand. “We’ve had a phenomenal year with the big reds and now the trout fishing is great,” said Capt. Mark Dickson of Shallow-Minded Inshore Charters. In addition, there have been excellent catches of black drum with scattered catches of flounder. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service had a super day on Monday, fishing in Winyah Bay and points south. McDonald’s crew caught 36 trout and 16 reds, with the majority of the fish caught on fly rods. “Fishing’s pretty good,” said McDonald. “The fish are starting to get in their winter pattern, with the reds ganging up pretty good. It’s time for them to start that.” On Thursday afternoon, McDonald reports the water temperature had increased to 67 degrees in the bay, but was headed down again with cooler weather arriving.
Look For: Black sea bass, whiting, weakfish, black drum, red drum, flounder, perch, croaker.
Comments: Fishing has slowed along the surf from piers along the Grand Strand. Carsten Fischer of Apache Pier reports there have been decent catches of one pound-plus whiting this week. “We’ve had palm-sized spots and very few of them,” said Fischer, who also noted a few black drum have also been caught. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reports catches of small whiting and croakers. The water temperature at both piers was 61 degrees Thursday afternoon. With the water temperature about to move below 60 degrees and December here, look for keeper black sea bass over the 13-inch minimum size limit to become more numerous on near-shore bottom spots and artificial reefs. Also look for weakfish and flounder.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Find pretty water near the break, and wahoo are likely to be in the vicinity. Ocean Isle Fishing Center reports the Get’n Bent Fishing Team headed out on Monday in hopes of finding plenty of wahoo. The crew wound up catching a pair of barracuda on a temperature break in 110 feet of water, then at the 160-foot mark landed a 50-pound wahoo and missed two more. They then moved back inshore and landed grouper, vermilion snapper and black sea bass. Last week, the OIFC’s Derek Treffinger reports a yellowfin tuna was landed on a trip, along with a wahoo and a few dolphin. Bottom fishing is very good for grouper, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, porgy, triggerfish, grunts and amberjack. Red snapper are off-limits in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Crappie, bream, catfish, bass.
Comments: The water levels are in good shape, plus it has been a warm autumn, and the fish are cooperating on local rivers. “Everything’s biting tremendous,” said Catfish Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “Morgans, bream, bass, crappie, catfish.” Look for crappie hitting minnows around structure and brush. Lead-lining worms and nightcrawlers is the top method to catch bream, including morgans. Catfish will hit a variety of live or cut bait.