A man missing after a boating mishap did not own a lifejacket because he thought he could swim to safety.

James Roberts, of Pukeatua, and Jordan Pooley, 21, of Tokoroa, have not been seen since Sunday when they went fishing on Waikato's Lake Arapuni in a 3m boat.

Mr Roberts' boss, Chris Holmes, said the 45-year-old was a conscientious employee who had worked on his Pukeatua farm for the past four years. He was originally from Cornwall in Britain.

Mr Roberts, a keen fisherman, recently bought a new rod and reel but didn't buy a lifejacket.


"He felt that he could swim to the shore because it's a narrow lake but at this time of the year when the water is cold and there's a lot of weed in the lake you have got everything against you," said Mr Holmes.

"It's pure speculation but I think because it's a fairly small boat, they have ended up on one side of it trying to catch a fish and it's tipped over. I think the weight of the motor has pulled the boat down and because it has no buoyancy it went straight down."

Mr Holmes was yesterday playing with Mr Roberts' dog Maggie, which had been with the missing men. Maggie walked almost 10km home on Wednesday night and sparked the search for the fishermen.

"The distance is nothing but the ability to point yourself in the direction home is amazing," said Mr Holmes.

Yesterday several boats and at least two private helicopters scoured the 25km-long lake on the Waikato River for any sign of the men.

Taupo area senior sergeant Tony Jeurissen said Environment Waikato staff, the Taupo harbourmaster and police had found no sign of debris or flotsam. Searches of the Arapuni dam revealed nothing.

Mr Jeurissen said police were hoping the public could help them narrow their search area and were appealing for any sightings. Dairy farmer Mr Pooley worked down the road from Mr Roberts and the two often went fishing together.

Mr Holmes described him as a "very helpful young lad".

Peter Haigh, who has lived next to Lake Arapuni for 25 years, said the lake was "as safe as can be" although exposed parts tended to get choppy in southerly winds and there was a petrified forest that could cause problems.