A man, a woman and a dog have been rescued after their boat's engine failed off the treacherous Hokianga Harbour bar.

The trio went out fishing in a 4m open Mac boat about 7am on Friday, anchoring between the bar and Northwest Reef.

They planned to fish for a few hours then head back into the harbour before high tide about 10am.

The Hokianga Coastguard in action. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The Hokianga Coastguard in action. Photo / Peter de Graaf

However, they were unable to start the engine despite repeated attempts and called 111, Hokianga Coastguard skipper Jeff Cramp said.

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When the rescue boat reached them the tide was going out and the swell was 2m and breaking 3m over the bar.

It took three attempts to get a line out to the stricken boat, and then the Coastguard vessel initially had to tow it directly towards the bar because towing it the other way would have taken it over the reef.

''She was a pretty spooky half hour towing them out of trouble,'' he said.

Cramp, who is also Rawene's senior police constable, said he was pleased to see both people and thier dog, a ridgeback-cross named Ripley, were wearing lifejackets.

Ripley the dog returns safely to Opononi aboard Hokianga Rescue. Photo / supplied
Ripley the dog returns safely to Opononi aboard Hokianga Rescue. Photo / supplied

However, in retrospect he said they should not have gone out of the harbour in choppy conditions in a small open boat.

The trio was towed safely to Ōpononi wharf.

A few days earlier, five people had to be rescued when their 7m boat capsized near the entrance to the Whangapē Harbour, the next harbour to the north.

All five, members of one family aged from their early 20s to mid-60s, were brought home safely after a night rescue involving local residents, Ahipara Fire Brigade and Far North Surf Rescue. In that case, lifejackets were on board but were not being worn.