Four boaties had to be rescued this morning after becoming distracted by a large fish and overturning their boat.

Tasman Police said the boaties were taken by surprise when their boat overturned in the water off the coast of Marahau, near Adele Island off the coast of the Abel Tasman National Park, about 9am.

The four men had been distracted by a large fish, and in their enthusiasm to look at it they unbalanced the vessel, which flipped, police said.

Police Search and Rescue co-ordinated a marine response, which included the Harbour Master and commercial vessels, and the group was picked up by a mussel harvester.

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Constable David Cogger said the group was lucky to be found, given there was initially difficulty pinpointing their location.

"The group managed to keep one cellphone dry to make an emergency call, however they were extremely lucky to have managed this," Cogger said.

"A grab-bag containing a GPS, marine radio and some flares would have greatly assisted them and helped speed up the search and rescue operation.

"It was only after police and Maritime New Zealand related a mayday that other vessels were able to come to their assistance – this kind of delay can be the difference between life and death."

Cogger said it was a timely reminder for boaties to have the appropriate emergency and communication gear on board.

"This gear can save your life if you get into trouble.

"We'd like to thank those crew aboard the mussel harvester, Platinum, who stopped their workday and responded – without their help today things could have turned out quite differently," Cogger said.

None of the four men were injured in the incident.

The boat was recovered using the mussel harvester's crane and towed back to Motueka by the Harbour Master.