Police have launched a search and rescue operation after a woman failed to return from a fishing trip off the east coast of Northland.

Sergeant Craig Burrows said a 45-year-old woman had not returned to shore after going fishing off Matauri Bay yesterday and the alarm was raised with police about 8pm.

A Coastguard crew searched the area in the dark last night and a team with the Northland Rescue Helicopter also carried out a search until it was called off.

A dinghy believed to be that used by the woman was found floating at the southern end of Matauri Bay during the search last night.

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However, the woman was not found.

Burrows said a police search and rescue squad travelled to the beach this morning and were carrying out a shoreline search.

Matauri Bay is 24km northeast of Kaeo. The Cavalli Islands lie about 4km offshore.