A fisherman who drowned after he was swept off rocks near Waihi Beach was wearing heavy clothing when he was pulled from the water.

Police have yet to name the 30-year-old Aucklander who was swept out to sea by a wave in front of three friends while fishing at Homunga Bay, north of Waihi Beach, about 7pm on Tuesday.

He was understood to be wearing a hooded jacket and boots with no lifejacket.

His friends could only watch helplessly as he was carried out to sea in 2m to 3m swells. A police spokesman said the group had to walk some way along the rocks to find a cellphone signal to ring for help.

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A crew of off-duty Waihi Beach Surf Lifesaving lifeguards were notified and helped police retrieve the body, which they found floating about 200m offshore.

Emergency services were unable to revive the man, who was thought to have been in the water for about 10 minutes. He was pronounced dead at the beach.

Sergeant Dave Litton of Waihi police praised the lifeguards who, despite being off duty, were in the water within minutes.

"Unfortunately, this tragedy highlights the dangers of fishing off rocks," said Mr Litton. "With the unpredictable nature of the sea, police advise the use of lifejackets or personal flotation devices while rock fishing."

Waihi Beach head lifeguard Daniel Peacocke yesterday told the Herald the man's distraught friends visited the club to convey their thanks.

He said they wanted to raise funds so an emergency flotation ring could be kept at Homunga Bay.

Meanwhile, a 40-year-old man drowned at Fitzroy Beach, in New Plymouth, about 7.20pm yesterday.

Two surfers brought him to shore but he could not be revived. It is understood he was with his son at the popular surf beach.

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His death takes the number of drownings to 11 since Christmas Eve.