A middle-aged man is "extremely lucky" he was spotted after becoming stranded in a small dinghy which was filling up with water on Lake Taupo.

The 54-year-old, from Tokoroa, was rescued by Taupo Police Search and Rescue and the Taupo Coastguard.

He was seen floating in his aluminium dinghy about 3km north of Motuwhara Island on the lake about 4.30pm on Sunday.

Police believe he became stranded about four or five hours earlier after his outboard motor broke down.


Sergeant Mike Bond of Taupo Search and Rescue said the man had entered the lake at Whanganui Bay to test his boat and the engine had stopped.

Other boaties noticed the dinghy at about 11am, floating in the water, Mr Bond said.

On their return a few hours later they saw the small boat still floating and contacted the police and the coastguard, believing a fisherman was in the water as they thought the boat was empty.

"There was significant concern he could have been in the water. He's very lucky they spotted him. He was some distance out," Mr Bond said.

The Youthtown Rescue Helicopter was sent out to look for the boat and the man was found bailing water.

"He was sitting in his boat waving his paddle to gain the attention of the helicopter ... His lifejacket had been washed out earlier," Mr Bond said. "We aren't sure how long he had been drifting for. If he had gone further out his boat would have probably swamped out."

The incident was a timely reminder for people to wear their lifejackets when out on the water and to let people know where they were going and what time they would return, he said.

"It's pretty basic stuff when going out on the water. Wear your lifejacket and notify people when you are going to be back and where you are setting off from," Mr Bond said.

"Be safe out there."