A fisherman who pulled a baby from the ocean at Matata Beach says it wasn't the baby's time to go.

"As he floated past I thought he was just a doll," said Gus Hutt.

"So, I reached out and grabbed him by the arm; even then I still thought it was just a doll.

His face looked just like porcelain with his short hair wetted down, but then and he let out a little squeak and I thought 'oh God this is a baby and it's alive'."

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It was simply luck that Hutt was there to save the 18-month-old after he had escaped from his parents' tent at Murphy's Holiday Camp early on October 26.

Usually, Hutt heads straight out from the camp to fish from the beach, but on Friday he decided to walk 100 metres to the left, towards Tauranga.

After returning to check his lines at 7.15am, he saw the seemingly lifeless baby floating in the water.

"He was floating at a steady pace with a rip in the water. If I hadn't been there, or if I had just been a minute later I wouldn't have seen him," said Hutt.

"He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn't meant to go; it wasn't his time."

Hutt's wife, Sue, ran to the parents' tent after the holiday camp managers said they were the only ones staying with a baby.

"She ran to the tent and just shook it and asked, 'where's your baby – we just pulled one from the sea' and the mother just screamed," said Gus Hutt.

Emergency services arrived with the Matata Volunteer Fire Brigade treating the boy for 15 minutes before an ambulance arrived to take him to Whakatāne Hospital.

The baby had pulled the zip up on the parents' tent while they were sleeping and crawled underneath the flap before making his way down to the beach.

"[Later] I followed his tracks down to the beach and saw his little footprints in the sand where he walked in," said Gus Hutt.

"It was about 15m away from where I had my rod, so he wasn't in the water long. I must've just missed seeing him go in."

When the parents stopped by to thank Hutt before returning to their home in Matamata he said you wouldn't have thought anything had happened.

"He was wriggling trying to get down to have a look at everything, he was just a lovely, cheeky little fella."

The Hutts are still a little shaken after the incident but are grateful Hutt was there at the right time.

The Matata fire brigade has advised that when camping with children parents should ensure zips are out of reach.

A police spokesman confirmed to the Herald that they attended the emergency at 7.45am and were not taking any further action in relation to the case.

- Whakatāne Beacon