Great white shark caught a mile off Rockaway Beach

A man fishing off the coast of Rockaway

A man fishing off the coast of Rockaway Beach reeled in a baby great white shark on June 22, 2014. (Credit: Steve Fernandez )

He's gonna need a bigger boat.

A man fishing off the coast of Rockaway Beach reeled in a baby great white shark on Sunday -- a sign that the population of the ocean's greatest predators, once-dwindling, is now on the rise.

Steve Fernandez, 29, set out with friends at 6 a.m. and searched for several hours, he said. They first spotted a 10-foot great white, but didn't catch it. About an hour later and just a mile from the beach crowds, he saw it: an 80 pound, five-foot white shark -- small by great white standards.

"I've seen great whites but I've never seen them in my backyard," said Fernandez, who lives in Breezy Point and works in insurance. "Nothing ever this close, that's what made it so awesome."

Fernandez said he has been going out once a week practically his whole life and he has never caught a great white before.

He tagged the baby shark with information about where he found it, its size and his serial number. Then he bent over, getting within about five inches of its mouth to pull the hook out, and set it free.

He hopes that in 10 years someone else catches the shark, contacts him "and it weighs 3,000 pounds. That would be nice."

Great whites can grow to 20 feet and weigh as much as 7,000 pounds, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

He later posted a photo of the shark, open-mouthed, on his Facebook page. "See you in 20 years Mr. White Shark . . ." he wrote.

Great white sharks are classified as "vulnerable," according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In New York, people can fish for great whites as long as they throw them back "with a minimum of injury," according to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

On his trip, Hernandez also caught five blue sharks, which he threw back, and a 130 pound thresher shark. He said he rarely keeps sharks, but took the thresher home to cook it.

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