ROCKAWAY BEACH — A group of friends out fishing about a mile off Rockaway Beach wound up reeling in a baby great white shark and spotted another 10 footer in the water.
The little Jaws was tagged and released by the fishermen.
Steve Fernandez, 29, and his friends were on the water Sunday when they spotted a great white toward the rear of the boat that was an estimated 10-feet long.
"I've seen them off shore, never really this close," said Fernandez, who works in the insurance industry. "There's no magical fence that keeps them off the beach. They swim wherever they want to go."
They later accidentally reeled in an 80-pound great white along with a haul that included blue sharks, he said.
They tagged and released the white shark as recommended by NOAA's "catch and release" regulations, which help in researching sea life. They also released the blues.
The baby shark was "3 inches from my face," Fernandez said.
"I love it — I'll do that every single day," he said. "I've caught bigger sharks, but that was the coolest."
The tag includes information about where the shark was caught, its condition and other observations so that researchers and other fisherman can track it. This was the shark's first tag, Fernandez said. NOAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under New York State regulations, great whites can only be fished using a rod and reel and must immediately be returned to the water "with a minimum of injury."
Other sharks in the friends' haul, blue and common threshers, were legal to fish as long as they are at least 54 inches long, according to the regulations. Fishermen are only allowed to bring back one per trip.
Great white sharks grow to an average of 15 feet but can exceed 20 and weigh up to 5,000 pounds, according to National Geographic. They have an extensive range around the world's oceans.
Weekend fishing is common for Fernandez, who works on the Prime Reel Estate Sportfishing boat that charters fishing trips off of Long Island's shores.
The shark was reeled on his friend Pat Butera's boat, the Seabuster, which docks in Rockaway Beach.
The sharks are traveling closer to the beach for the same reason whales came close to shore last September, he said — they've been drawn in by an abundance of food.
Despite his avid fishing lifestyle, Fernandez said he rarely takes home what he catches.
"I don't really keep many fish, I mostly just like reeling them in," he said. "It's the thrill of the hunt."
The only fish he kept on the weekend trip was a 300-pound thresher shark that he plans to cut up into filets for summer barbecues.
After Fernandez caught the great white he posted it on Facebook for his friends to see.
"See you in 20 years Mr. White Shark...," he wrote.