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

Hawera Sergeant Lincoln McCrea said the man, aged 54, and a man in his mid-20s from Eltham had set out on fishing trip in a 3-metre Fi-glass Fireball 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," he 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."

There were strong westerly conditions at the time of the accident.

Mr McCrea said most local fishermen know how unsafe 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."