A fisherman missing for 24 hours at Port Waikato usually only fished in the river as he disliked crossing the notorious Port Waikato Bar.
Two men were reported missing after failing to return from a fishing trip yesterday. A capsized boat has been found by search and rescue teams near the entrance of the Waikato River. Rescuers have been trying to overturn it since this morning.
The two men - a 67 year old Tuakau man who has been named locally as Arthur Brown, and his 57-year-old friend from Pahiatua in the Manawatu - were expected to return from an Easter Monday fishing trip about 3pm. When they had not returned by 7pm, a concerned partner of one of the men called Coastguard.
This evening Pete Pleydell, president of the Port Waikato Fishing Club, which Mr Brown had previously been a member of, said the "excellent fisherman" usually stuck to fishing in the Waikato River or off the wharf.
"[He was] a prolific fisherman alright. Fished mainly in the Waikato River itself. Going out over the bar was very strange, to us that know him fairly well, for him to venture across the bar," Mr Pleydell said.
"He's normally a fisherman in the river, because the bar is a little bit scary, he told me, he didn't like the bar."
Mr Pleydell described Mr Brown as an experienced boatie and fisherman.
"He loved his fishing, for real. An excellent fisherman - always caught quite a lot of fish, but out from the wharf where his car's still parked, so venturing across [the bar] was unusual really.
"So we're all feeling for it, of course."
He added: "We just had our big 'Kahawai Classic' on the Sunday, which he couldn't attend, and he's gone out the following day and that's when it happened."
Mr Pleydell said the bar was notoriously difficult to cross.
"The Port Waikato Bar is one that inexperienced people should ask the locals how it works, even those that are well-known to the bar can certainly tip out on it," he said.
Paying tribute to Mr Brown, Mr Pleydell said he was was "just one of the boys really".
"A good fisherman, [he'd] give you anything, he had a big heart and a good bugger all round."
Mr Pleydell and some other members of the club would head down to the wharf tonight to see if they could assist or to comfort Mr Brown's family, who are believed to be gathered at the shore.
Members of the club had offered to help with the search last night, which saw the Coastguard's NZ Steel Rescue vessel, the police Eagle helicopter and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, as well as two local surf lifesaving clubs, scour the area for signs of the two men and their boat.
Tuakau police Sergeant Tod Kirker said rescuers were tonight trying to right the overturned boat. He confirmed there were life jackets on the boat but he was unsure if the men were wearing them.
The search for the men would continue until dark.
"Unfortunately they were reported missing from their fishing trip and their boat was found this morning."
Mr Kirker said the conditions did get a bit rougher on Monday evening despite being calmer earlier in the day.
"It is a fairly treacherous piece of water. I don't got too many years where I don't have a boat flip up. It is a very tricky bar and dangerous spot."
Coastguard confirmed the pair did not lodge a crossing report with the agency before attempting to cross the Port Waikato Bar.
Coastguard was alerted at 7pm yesterday by the concerned partner of one of the men onboard the overdue boat, Coastguard northern region spokeswoman Georgie Smith said.
"The vessel was described to be a 6m runabout, with two people on board. They'd headed out from the Port Waikato boat ramp."
Sunset Beach Surf Lifesaving club captain Shane Edwards thought the men may have been caught out by daylight savings, with darkness creeping in earlier than expected.
The missing boat had been recovered at the river mouth, 3kms from the surf club.
Friends of the missing men declined to comment when approached by the Herald at the scene.