A body has been washed ashore in Northland on the beach where a fisherman was swept out to sea on Saturday.

Whangarei/Kaipara area commander Inspector Tracy Phillips said the body was discovered on the south side of the Maunganui Bluff, northwest of Dargaville, by locals around midday today.

"We can't confirm yet whether it is the [missing] person until we've gone through the formal identification process.''

The missing 27-year-old fisherman was swept out to sea off Northland's treacherous west coast.


The man was one of three sucked out in rough seas as they tried to fish with a net, north of Maunganui Bluff, 42km north west of Dargaville, about 1pm on Saturday.

When relatives of the fishermen - two brothers, aged 19 and 21, and a brother-in-law - learned of the emergency they launched a rescue and used boogie boards.

Two men were pulled from the surf and CPR attempted on one of them but he could not be revived.

The survivor, who was suffering from hypothermia, was flown by the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter to Whangarei Hospital where he remained in a stable condition.

While attempts were made to recover the body of the third person late on Saturday rough seas conditions hampered the operation. Yesterday six police officers and about a dozen family and locals unsuccessfully combed the beach from Maunganui Bluff as far north as an area known as Big Bay, near Kawerua.

Low tide was about 2pm which allowed them to check rocky outcrops along the beach.

Police were not returning to the beach but family were expected back at the beach today as they continued the search for their loved one.

Sea conditions were relatively calm for the west coast yesterday in contrast to the previous day.

The rescue helicopter crew called to the scene after the alarm was raised were able to locate the body in the water and winched down a St John intensive care paramedic to see if she could secure the body.

However the operation was hampered by stormy seas.

The crew landed on the beach again and the paramedic, also a triathlete, swam out into the surf and was being directed by the crew above towards the body.

"It was too rough. The waves were breaking and it was horrendous.

"There is a very strong undertow on that beach and rips everywhere ... it was impossible," she said.

"Anyone who was a good swimmer would be struggling. It was like a washing machine with huge white wash. The waves were just smashing on the top of me."

A coastguard vessel from Hokianga was unable to get near the body due to the big seas.

Coastguard spokesman Georgie Smith said winds averaged 24 knots.

The west coast is known for its dangerous seas and in August last year a 14-year-old Aucklander drowned near Manganui Bluff.

Two teens were caught in a rip and only one was able to be brought back to shore by onlookers.

Just 10 days ago two people in as many days were plucked from the sea at Baylys Beach on the west coast.

Local lad and surf lifeguard Mitchell Powell, along with some help from mates, saved a Frenchman from drowning one day and the next rescued a stricken 23-year-old woman, who had to be given oxygen and flown to Whangarei Hospital.