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The outboard motor came off worst, but the four friends on board the boat say they won't be dangling their legs in the cool seawater again.

The four had a spectacular close encounter when this shark attacked their boat.

Bry Mossman, one of those fishing for blue cod about 300m off the Hawkes Bay coast, said the 3m mako shark circled the 5m aluminium boat for about half an hour before attacking the motor.

"We saw the teeth coming for us following fish we had caught - then it hit the boat and swerved to the side," Mrs Mossman told the Weekend Herald.

"It circled for about half an hour and was lifting its head looking at us as it was swirling behind the boat, then it started to attack the motor."

It was more interested in the boat than the blue cod they threw it, she said.

The body of the aluminium boat was unscathed, but the shark's teeth left puncture marks in the outboard motor.

It did not leave until her husband, David Mossman, hit it twice on the nose with a heavy hook.

Shark chaser Boyd McGregor, from Gisborne, said there was "easily the highest number of sharks in 10 years" in the water this summer, a sign of a healthy marine environment.

Mr McGregor is a skipper for Surfit Charters, a company that drops clients into the water in shark cages.

Six mako sharks surrounded the cage on Thursday, attracted by one tuna fish.

For a few years there were no blue sharks around, but now up to 10 could swarm at one time, he said.

"They hardly get a sniff and they are there."

Department of Conservation shark expert Clinton Duffy said sharks were attracted to outboard motors because the metal generated an electric field similar to that of a living animal.

The fish have jelly-filled receptors on their snouts which detect small electric fields as well as subtle changes in temperature.

When metal is placed in seawater, it reacts with the salt ions to produce an electric field that sharks can mistake for prey.

Metal boats and outboard motors use an anode to prevent corrosion in seawater and the electric field it created would have attracted the shark, Mr Duffy said.

Mako sharks were common at this time of year and were found around the North and South Islands.

Mrs Mossman said it had been several years since she had seen a shark out in Hawkes Bay.

She has a house on the beach and often saw dolphins and whales, but there were none about on the day of the shark encounter.

Local residents were now hesistant about going sea fishing in kayaks.

Often they dangled their feet on either side of the kayak to stabilise it while they fish, but after hearing her shark account most would stop doing that, Mrs Mossman said.

"It definitely makes people aware they are out there. I wouldn't be swimming out to sea."