A Great White Shark Gets Up Close and Personal
A South Carolina fishing guide spent some quality time with a huge apex predator—and has the footage to prove it
Photo: Courtesy of Jim Hutson
Captain Jim Hutson, a fishing guide, wildlife photographer, and conservationist based in Charleston, South Carolina, saw a great white shark swim under his boat four years ago, but the moment happened too quickly for him to document it. That was not the case Wednesday, when he and two friends boated thirty miles off the coast of Isle of Palms and pulled up over a shipwreck.
“Right when we started getting lines in, I saw this fin that I thought was a sunfish,” Hutson says. “I went up to the bow, looked over, and said, nope, that’s a giant great white.” During winter, great white sharks appear off the coasts of South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, where there are warmer waters, but it’s still extremely rare to see one. “We were all just amazed at this animal that makes you feel so small.” Hutson estimates that the shark, which he later identified as a female, was at least thirteen feet long and nearly as wide as his boat.
He was able to get drone footage before she swam away, and the trio headed off to a few more fishing spots before returning to the wreck just in case she decided to reappear. Sure enough, “she popped right up” as they arrived, and this time, she circled the boat, taking a special interest in the motor, and allowed Hutson time for more footage, some underwater. “We had a live well of bait, so there was definitely a scent trail,” he says. “And she doesn’t have any predators, so she probably felt she could do whatever she wanted and check out whatever was going on.”
The footage reveals a whole school of fish traveling with her—“an animal this big has its own zip code,” as Hutson puts it—plus curious scratch marks on the face, possibly from prey like a seal fighting back. All told, the great white spent a half hour around the boat, giving the three friends the experience of a lifetime. “We caught grouper, snapper, triggerfish, and amberjack, but I would have taken seeing that shark over anything,” Hutson says. “I’d seen one great white in the past fifteen years of guiding, and yesterday, we got to hang out and observe this one for so long. Absolutely incredible experience.”
To fish with Captain Jim Hutson or see his photography, follow him on Instagram @capt.jimhutson.