School friends of Nick Stubbs say they'll keep searching the sea everyday until they find their mate.

Nick Betley, 24, who went to Mahurangi College with Mr Stubbs said this afternoon he'd taken time off work and had been out on boats searching the seas for the missing fisherman for the past two days.

"It's so confusing. Where do you look? Everyone's got a different story [of where he might have gone fishing before the tragedy] so it's just about trying to find their last location and starting from there.

"And just keep on doing it, don't stop. I'd rather be out here than not. I mean, you're not going to find anything sitting at home."

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Mr Betley was one of about 20 friends who had been out in boats searching "searching coastlines, doing laps, just searching everywhere" since about 6.30am today. He'd be back in the morning to do it all over again tomorrow, "until it's sorted", he said.

He described Mr Stubbs as the life of the party.

"He's just a typical, awesome dude. He's always there. He's never angry ... It's just really shit [that he's missing]."

Mr Stubbs was keen on the outdoors, he said, and they would usually go 4WDing in the weekends.

His father, Brian Stubbs this afternoon made a heartfelt tribute to his son.

"He's my only son. He's a really neat kid, into his outdoor pursuits, motorcycling, fishing."

Speaking for the first time, he told the Herald through tears he wanted to thank all of the people involved in the search for his boy.

Nick Stubbs went out fishing with friend Stewart Atutahi, 37, on Tuesday night but the pair never made it home.

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Mr Atutahi's body was found yesterday afternoon.

The pair had been out fishing previously without any trouble, Brian Stubbs said.

"They'd been out before. They were just hobby fishermen.

"They went out fishing on a beautiful, calm evening. I mean, what can you do, you can't tell him [his son] not to."

The anxious dad and his daughter, Janelle, spent the morning at Martins Bay as friends in several fishing boats searched the sea offshore.

"It's just waiting for news," he said through tears.

"It's either sitting at home or sitting here."

He said his son could swim, "but not great distances".


Family and friends of two fisherman on the beach at Martin's Bay after one body was recovered and Nick Stubbs still remains missing. Photo / Jason Oxenham

There had been no real news from the authorities or searchers, and it still wasn't clear what had happened to cause the disaster.

"All we know is they've taken sonar readings and they'll go away and have a look and see if they came up with anything."

He wanted to thank everyone involved in the search for his son.

"I just want to thank everyone that's been involved in this. They've put in a major effort. I just want to thank everybody ... the helicopters, the navy, the police, the coastguard, the ground search people, just everybody. I just can't thank them enough on behalf of me and my daughter Janelle."

His girlfriend, Carissa De Felice, posted on Facebook today: "Some how the hardest day imaginable has come and I'm just praying for a miracle to find nick alive. life is unthinkable without you. Lets bring you home babe! love you with all of my heart, I will never give up together forever!"

Mr Stubbs and Mr Atutahi were popular workmates at Puhoi Valley Cheese, a Goodman Fielder spokesman said in a statement.

"The Puhoi Valley Cheese team is devastated by the tragic incident involving Stewart (Stu) Atutahi and Nicholas (Nick) Stubbs, both popular and highly valued team members at the site.

"The team is aware that Stu's body has been recovered, and emergency services are still searching for Nick."

Management and staff of Puhoi Valley Cheese were thinking of the families of the two men, the statement said.

Goodman Fielder had organised for counselling services to be available to employees.

Mr Stubbs and Mr Atutahi were last seen when they set off from Martins Bay near Warkworth at 5pm on Tuesday, telling loved ones they wouldn't be long.

The body of Mr Atutahi, who was skippering the dinghy, was found yesterday afternoon in the water near Kawau Island.

Debris from their 14ft fibreglass dinghy was found yesterday morning.

The search for Mr Stubbs continued this morning, with friends and volunteers joining official searchers.

The families of the men held each other and cried when police delivered the grim news. They had been at the beach from morning.

- additional reporting Sophie Ryan, Brendan Manning