Police have called a fishing expedition which resulted in the death of a Hawera man at the Patea River mouth bar today as "foolish and unintelligent".

Sergeant Lincoln McCrea, of Hawera, said the man, 54, and a man in his mid 20s from Eltham had set out on fishing trip in a 3.5m boat.

At 7.45am, the boat was flipped by an enormous wave across the bar, he said.

"Both men made it to the shore but the Hawera man died soon after," Mr McCrea said.

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"They should never have gone out in such a rough seas. I'm a fisherman and go out from Patea regularly. But if I get there and the sea is rough, I just turn around and go home, which is what these two should have done."

Mr McCrea said most local fisherman know how dangerous the sea can be at Patea and along the South Taranaki coast.

"It's stupid and unintelligent to still try and go out fishing at Patea when the sea is rough.

"If it's too dangerous, just turn round and go home."