WHAS11 Three hours into fighting a 2,500-pound female great white shark, Louisville sport fishing captain Chip Michalove wasn’t giving up. Tuesday, he and a customer were three miles off the coast of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He told me, “It took off like a train.” Chip says on the video he sent as they reel in the shark, “It’s enormous. It looked like a bus being dropped in off a cliff when it came out the water the first time!” Chip talked to me from his Hilton Head business, Outcast Sport Fishing. He’s lived there since moving from Louisville in 1988. He went to Chenoweth Elementary School and Westport Middle. What a fight they had. By nightfall, finally pulling the tranquilized great white to the side of the boat to tag it. Michalove describes what they did next, “We took a DNA clip from the left pectoral fin and then put an acoustic tag at the base of her dorsal fin.” Michalove is no stranger to great whites, saying this is the 5th he’s seen off the Carolinas, but it’s also the biggest and right as spring break hits. So I had to ask him, should people swim in the waters off the beach? He said, “I think you’re fine. I don’t think these sharks are not coming into the surf.” Louisville’s never far from his heart. His dad, Reese, still lives here. But in the name of science (of course) he told me the name he gave the giant great white, still out there swimming, somewhere, “I schedule all of my charters in the springtime on the Kentucky Wildcat basketball schedule. So I’m a huge Kentucky fan and this shark had to go into the database and when they asked me a name, I couldn’t think of anything better than ‘Wildcat.'”
Sightings of Great White Sharks are becoming more common along the east coast of the United States, but it’s extremely rare for a fisherman to hook and bring in a great white, although we saw a juvenile great white shark landed in the shadow of New York City in 2014. After being hunted to near extinction, populations of seals are back in a big way off the coast of Maine and they are thriving off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. When the seals come back, the predators follow, and we have seen increased great white shark activity in recent years as the seal population rebounded. Seeing a 2,500 pound great white shark is always cool, and this fisherman will have a story to tell for the rest of his life, it’s good that see that this apex predator was released unharmed back into the ocean. We have seen massive tiger sharks killed as trophies off the South Carolina coast in the past, shark populations are still dwindling, and these giants deserve to be released back into the deep where they are so important to the ecosystem.