HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – A local man is making waves doing what some may consider unthinkable or perhaps, unimaginable, especially if they’ve ever seen the movie “Jaws.”

Chip Michalove, a Hilton Head charter boat captain for Outcast Sport Fishing, is nationally known for continually catching great white sharks, the largest predatory fish on Earth.

He has no plans on stopping any time soon.

Great white shark in South Carolina. (Photo provided by Chip Michalove).

His efforts have put Hilton Head on the map of having multiple great white sharks, bringing a safety value, and sparking a new interest for many.

Michalove has been featured in two documentaries on YouTube, “Passion Led Me Here” and “Oceans End.”  He’s been on the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” numerous times, made multiple nationally televised news programs — and he will appear on “National Geographic” this summer.

“It’s really nice that our area is known for our wildlife instead of timeshares and golf,” Michalove said. “I think we’re still well known for that. You know, we have some cool stuff living here in South Carolina and Georgia, and I think it’s cool that we’re finally getting known for it.”

With a ton of experience on the water that’s helping many from the south of the Atlantic to the north, some may wonder how he first got started.

Michalove was born in Lexington, Kentucky. When he was 4 years old, his parents booked a charter with Fuzzy Davis in South Carolina when they were on vacation.

As soon as I got back to the dock, it was in my blood.

Chip Michalove

“Fuzzy Davis is a local legend here. He was the first one to discover target tarpon in our area,” Michalove said. “Nobody had ever seen one or caught one. So, I went out with him when I was 4 and I was scared to death. Then about after halfway through the trip, I was feeling better. We caught a huge shark that day and it scared me to death, I was crying. But, I still remember like it was yesterday. As soon as I got back to the dock, it was in my blood.”

By the time he was 6 years old, Michalove was hanging up signs at local ponds telling people that he was a guide for hire and leaving his phone number just in case anyone was interested.

In 1989, Michalove and his family moved to South Carolina. It was while in high school, he had an idea that not many people even thought about.

“I first got an idea that great whites are here from these big turtles that would wash up on the beach with big half-moons cut out of them,” he said. “Everyone would blame the tiger shark, but it wasn’t the tigers, it was too big. It was in the wintertime, and I knew at that point we didn’t have tiger sharks in the winter months, so I knew we had a great white shark, even when I was in high school.”

He continued, “What’s really interesting, what blows my mind since the beginning, was how many we have. When I first started fishing for them, I thought we would have two, three or four of them off this coast. We’ve got thousands of them.”

Fishing for them is exactly what Michalove did as he aimed to fulfill a risky goal.

“I was trying to be the first person to ever catch a great white down here,” he said. “Nobody had ever caught one in South Carolina or Georgia.”

He continued, “When I first started targeting them, people thought I was crazy.  They said there was a better chance of finding Big Foot than there was of me catching a great white shark off Hilton Head.”

He eventually proved them wrong — but not without a challenge.

Great white shark near Chip Michalove’s boat. (Photo provided by Chip Michalove)

“The first time I ever saw one, I was out there fishing by myself and it freaked me out so bad because I had never seen a shark large enough that could eat any kind of shark I have ever seen,” Michalove said. “It was enormous and it was circling the boat and it wasn’t interested in the bait, it was interested in the boat. 

Eventually, he hooked it.

“I really almost just started the motors and got out of there — that’s how bad it scared me. It really freaked me out…but anyway, I ended up talking myself into hooking it.”

He continued, “It was just a whole emotional rollercoaster of seeing my dream, something everybody said I was wasting my time on, but I lost it and I didn’t have any video.  So, then I went out three days later and I got another one, and another one and another one and it just took off from there.”

Another challenge was after catching a great white shark the first time, not everyone believed him.

“Once I caught one, it blew up so crazy that the media didn’t even believe me,” he said. “They wanted the story but then they said this is just too farfetched. Now things have changed, there are people who’ve seen them.”

Now, he’s catching them almost every time he goes out on the water.

Chip Michalove (photo provided)

Since his first catch, Michalove and his team have played an important role in learning more about great white sharks in the south by tagging them.

Shark tagging helps in shark conservation, helping to collect data on the shark’s movement and dive depth, plus, its migration patterns, population sizes and mating grounds.

“You know, they tagged a lot of them in Cape Cod and Maine and so forth and New York, but there was no data down here.  When I started, there weren’t even laws. We didn’t have a state law on them” he explained.

“When I caught the second one, I really figured out their migration, and through the years I’ve built a really good relationship with these shark scientists,” Michalove said. “They send me these satellite tags and they’re doing ultrasounds. They come down and go with me quite a bit.

“We’ve had shark week down here, we had National Geographic down here, so it’s been insane.”

His efforts also help those in the north. As he catches and tags the great white sharks for satellite purposes, it helps in monitoring their migration up and down the coast.

“Not only are we getting detections in real-time, immediately, daily detections, there’s also kind of like an alarm system in Cape Cod where they have these dunes out. They’re receivers, and every time one of my sharks comes in close to the beach and passes one of these receivers, the lifeguards get notified immediately because of the tag. So there is a safety value to it as well.”

Michalove said teaming up with the scientists has made him a better fisherman. It enabled him to figure out great white sharks’ migration routes every single time he go out on the water.

“I’ve got a chart at my house that shows me what water temperature I catch them in, what water temperature I don’t catch them in, what I see around, what I think they are eating, and what water clarity I think they like,” he said. “So, I’ve totally gotten better and better through the years of finding them, and now we get one almost every trip now.”

On what motivated him, Michalove explained, “When our local paper was so interested in my Facebook post that I caught a great white and I had a picture of it and they called and were so excited. Then they called me back an hour later and said, ‘This is really cool but it’s just so hard to fetch that we’re going to have to pass.’”

He continued, “I was like, ’You don’t believe me that it happened?’ I took a DNA sample from the tail,’ and they were like, ‘We’re sorry, it’s just too hard to fathom, we’re going to have to pass on this story.’

“I called my buddy that was my right-hand man and he just laughed and said, ‘It’s quite a feat when you do something so crazy the media doesn’t even believe you.’  So that was great motivation.”

Those who want to stay up to date on Michalove can do so here.