"Only take what you need, don't be greedy."
That was the message experienced Bay of Plenty fisherman Jason Kauta passed on to his niece before he went missing at sea.
The Ōpōtiki man headed out fishing about 7am on Sunday, understood to be planning to visit his favourite spot about 7km off the coast of Tōrere.
Kauta was alone in his 3.6m fibreglass dinghy, which was painted mustard orange at the base and white on top.
When he did not return by 1pm as he usually would, police were contacted and a massive search began, hampered by poor weather.
Marine and aerial searches by police, Coastguard, surf lifesavers and air assets - including a plane and helicopter - have found no sign of him, his boat or its contents.
An RNZAF Orion helped with the aerial search on Tuesday, and Coastguard crews from Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne and Maketu were also assisting.
In a statement on Tuesday night, police said an assessment of the search so far will now be undertaken.
"Any further action will be dependant on the assessment and on the weather over the coming days."
The weather forecast was not looking favourable for tomorrow.
His niece, Mia van den Broek, has been helping with the search.
She was holding on to hope that he was still alive, but said she was also trying to be "harsh" with herself.
"He's been at sea since Sunday and the weather and sea conditions have gone up and down since then. I hope he is (alive) but I'm just being blunt to myself."
She described her uncle as a keen fisherman with a good sense of humour and a "massive heart".
Kauta taught her how to mark points off land instead of using a GPS, and to read the swells and winds.
He was a "pretty darn cool uncle", she said. Along with practical fishing skills, he taught her about respecting fishing stocks and giving back.
"He taught me 'only take what you need, don't be greedy'."
Kauta was a caring, humble and experienced fisherman who only took what he needed and gave away some of his catch to kaumatua and many others, van den Broek said.
She said he took her out fishing to his favourite spot a couple of weeks ago.
"I am so glad I finally got back out there with him."
She was tasked with catching bait for him.
"It fascinated me that he could call what type of fish was at the end of (the line), and he was right every time.
"My favourite was when he called it a red kahawai and it confused me. He said, "it's a hybrid, they're special ones, ol' grasshopper". It ended up being a massive snapper."
The lessons were not done: "The bait catcher did catch some fish of legal size but they weren't of my uncle's legal size. He would check the size on his chilly bin and say 'nope too small'."
She said he saw the sadness on her face, as she had worked hard to catch them.
"He humbled me and said, 'just because they're legal size, doesn't mean you have to keep all of them'."
She hoped that even if her uncle had died, he would be found so she and her whānau could lay him to rest.
"I'll miss my uncle but I'm grateful to have learned what I have from him and still got in one more trip with him. I just wish I got more and he gets found."
Ōpōtiki Coastguard president Ron Jones said it was hard on the teams searching to have not found anything.
"It's really hard. It's a small community where everyone knows everyone."
Jones said the sea had been rough on Tuesday, and had limited where the boats could search.
He was unsure if they would be able to go out again on Wednesday with the weather forecast.
Jones said there had been a big swell on Sunday, and the weather had been "up and down".
Kauta is described as around 1.8m tall and has a whānau name 'Wharekino' tattooed on his right arm inside of his tā moko.
Have you seen these items?
Police have asked that members of the public using the shoreline from Tōrere through to Maketu to be vigilant and report any sighting of the following items of interest:
- a 100-litre white chilly bin
- a red tote tank
- wooden oars
- a yellow lifejacket
Anyone who comes across any of these items is asked to contact Police on 105, quoting file number 220418/0391.