A Hilton Head Island, South Carolina shark with an exceptionally great smile (shown in photo above) was spotted cruising around New Jersey this week.
Josiah, the great white shark tagged in December by great white shark whisperer Chip Michalove of Outcast Sport Fishing, has been hanging around the Jersey Shore for the past couple days, according to the Sharktivity shark tracker app.
When Michalove initially hooked Josiah off the coast of Hilton Head in December 2019, he attached a SPOT (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting ) tag to his fin so that scientists at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy —along with anyone who has the Sharktivity App — can track the shark’s movements in real time.
Before yesterday, Josiah’s tag hadn’t pinged for more than two months.
The 10-foot shark was further north, off the coast of Rhode Island, on June 23.
A week before, Josiah paid a visit to the Martha’s vineyard area.
Josiah has had quite the journey this year — swimming well over 1,000 miles. Michalove said it’s been interesting to watch how close he gets to the shore.
“He’s only ventured past the Gulf stream twice out of hundreds of pings,” Michalove said.
In late May/ early June, Josiah was lurking off the coast of Maryland/ Delaware.
From April through early May, Josiah cruised around the North Carolina coast, spending a lot of time in the Wilmington, North Carolina area (his spring break, perhaps?).
Just like so many other great white sharks, Josiah spent most of the winter —from February to April — swimming off the South Carolina coast from Hilton Head to Charleston, all the way up to Myrtle Beach.
“In April, he came back by Hilton Head and spent a week off Pritchards Island, only about 2 miles off the beach — that’s much closer than where we originally tagged him,” Michalove said.
Michalove said it meant a lot to him to see the shark return to the area where he was first caught.
“The cool thing for me is, he came back to Hilton Head,” Michalove said.”If you traumatize a shark it darts like a bat out of hell. Not only did this guy hang around after tagging but he returned 4 months later.
Great White Shark Science
Like clockwork, great white sharks swarm the South Carolina coast from December to March every year. They make their journey from the New England area, where the scientists teaming up with Michalove spot the rare creatures in the summertime.
“When you think you’ve got the sharks figured out, you throw in a great white and it goes against everything you thought you knew about fishing,” he said. “It’s the smartest fish in the sea. It’s not the maniac that we know from the movies.”
Michalove said great white sharks prefer water temperatures between 54 and 68 degrees and can be found anywhere between the sounds and the Gulf Stream, up to 60 miles off shore.
“This fish has zero fear, but often just swims up, realizes something isn’t right and swims away,” he said. “Some circle for half an hour unable to make up their mind. It’s been a process trying to figure them out.”
He’s estimated there are around 1,000 great whites off the South Carolina coast every winter.
Because great whites only are here in the winter time, South Carolina hasn’t had any great white shark attacks on record.
Becoming Hilton Head’s great white shark whisperer was no easy task. Michalove studied the creatures for decades and spent seven straight unsuccessful winters searching for great white sharks off the Lowcountry coast.
For years, he was made fun of by the other local fishermen who said Chip was on a “great white goose chase” trying to catch a creature they weren’t sure was out there.
Until one January day in 2014 — Michalove caught his first great white shark. Then he caught another. And another.
“It’s been a trial-and-error process and it’s made me a better more patient fisherman,” he said.
He’s one of the only fishermen on the East Coast who can successfully catch and release great white sharks on rod-and-reel.
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