On a charter for bull redfish the afternoon of March 8, a Tennessee fisherman wound up landing a great white shark off Hilton Head Island that was estimated at close to 2,500 pounds before it was tagged and released for future shark research.
Capt. Chip Michalove of Outcast Sportfishing had one fisherman, Troy Bowman of Bulls Gap, Tenn., aboard his 26-foot Glacier Bay catamaran, when the tide change in mid-afternoon and fish began biting.
“The bull reds began biting, and the water got really pretty, really quick, and I set out a shark bait, too. (Troy) was getting a workout catching and releasing some bull reds,” said Michalove (843-290-0371).
Then, something picked up the shark bait. Michalove catches plenty of tigers, hammerheads and other sharks, and he has caught great whites, and he was excited when the bait drew a strike.
""This fish picked up the bait, clicked the reel a little as it moved the bait a few feet and then dropped the bait," Michalove said. "I grabbed the rod and free-lined the bait so it would move naturally with the current and it came back. This time it ran hard for about 30 yards and then jumped straight up, completely out of the water. We were speechless. It was huge. The splash it made hitting the water looked like someone had driven a bus off a cliff."
Michalove said the shark made a run at the boat right after re-entering the water, but turned just before getting there and took off. Now the fight was on.
"Fighting great whites is not like fighting other sharks," Michalove said. "They have superior intelligence. At times it seems they come up just to look around and contemplate how they can release themselves. They are notorious for biting the line above the leader. You are fighting their weight and strength like with any other large fish, but you have to fight their intelligence also. It can be almost spooky at times."
Michalove, who had brought three of five hooked great whites to boatside this winter, constantly adjusted the boat's position and kept Bowman pumped up, telling him more people had walked on the moon than had landed a great white on rod and reel. After about an hour, with Bowman tiring, the two began trading off the rod and reel for short periods of rest.
"About three hours in we were both worn out and it was getting dark too," Michalove said. "I didn't know if we had the strength and energy to land this big fish. When Troy took the rod next, I began calling my friends to get some help. Just about everyone was off the island or in the middle of something they couldn't stop, but when I reached Capt. John Brackett (www.sweetpeafishing.com), he stopped in the middle of dinner and came out to help us. It's a good thing he did too.”
Brackett arrived, anchored his boat and jumped on board Michalove’s boat and took turns on the rod, allowing one fisherman to rest and another to maneuver the boat. After about an hour, the three fishermen finally had the big shark at boatside.
"John has seen one of these fish before, but Troy hadn’t, and as the fish was finally coming up, I was preparing Troy for it," Michalove said. "We had gotten a look when it jumped and knew it was big, but that wasn't like having it a boatside. I told Troy it would be huge and it was — probably even a little larger than I was thinking. It was basically egg-shaped and ridiculously wide. It was three-quarters as wide as my boat. I've seen some big sharks and thought it was real close when we estimated this one at 2,500 pounds."
Michalove said they rolled the big female on her back and side to calm her down while he attached a sonic tag at the base of its dorsal fin. He also took a clipping from her pectoral fin for DNA study. Michalove said the shark tolerated the clipping and tagging, but she was a little too frisky for him to try to remove the Gamakatsu live-bait Hook in the corner of her jaw, so they clipped the leader close to it and rolled her back over.
"Once we rolled her back upright, she recovered quickly and swam off to the north," Michalove said. "We were too tired to do much celebrating but realized this was a feat. This was the fourth great white brought to my boat by rod and reel and was the largest. The two we broke off earlier this year were both larger."
Michalove is a Hilton Head native who assists the shark researchers from Ocearch (www.ocearch.org) when they are in the Hilton Head area. The tag he attached to this shark was supplied by Ocearch.
"While growing up, I thought there were great whites off here at times," Michalove said. "We would occasionally find sea turtles washed up on the beach with huge bites missing. I always wondered if they were from far off or close by. I always wanted to catch one and have worked at it for about 12 years. Now, we know they aren't too far off and can be landed on rod and reel. We could see the motels until the sun went down and then could see their lights the entire fight.
"Heck, we couldn't have been too far off," Michalove said. "I called for help on my cell phone. It was good that John could come. I don't think we could have landed this fish without his help."
Bowman, Michalove and Brackett fought the big shark on a custom Berserker Rod, using a Shimano 50 Wide LRS spooled with 200-pound Jerry Brown braided line and tipped with a 9/0 Great White Gamakatsu live-bait hook.