A wall of water strong enough to break wood and sweep 500kg of fish into the sea from a fishing trawler was not enough to shake skipper Tyrone Dobbs.
Dozens of dead fish - including snapper, gurnard and john dory - washed up at Muriwai Beach on Tuesday, leaving a trail of more than 6km stretched out to sea.
Commercial fishing company Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd confirmed today the fish came from a contracted trawler which was caught in severe weather in the Kaipara Harbour on Monday night.
Huge seas from 25-knot "cross winds" and 4m swells caused damage to the boat and about half a tonne of fish, just caught in the trawler's net, to wash overboard just south of South Head.
Skipper Tyrone Dobbs said the incident happened in the darkness just before 9pm.
It was the sixth day the 60-foot boat with two crew and one skipper had been fishing at sea when the weather started to get dicey, Mr Dobbs said.
The 24-year-old man has been a commercial fisherman for nine years and has been in severely rough conditions before - but not in a boat as small as this one, he said.
"I was just cautious, making sure everything was alright. Being scared is dangerous, so I was just handling the situation how it needed to be handled.
"I have [been in similar conditions], just on different boats. Larger boats, much larger," he said.
As the seas started surging Mr Dobbs decided it was "a good time to pick up the gear and start making a move".
A "decent amount" of fish had been pulled onto the boat just as it drifted side-on to the waves, he said.
Three huge waves broke over the deck, bringing on a massive amount and breaking multiple hefty wooden boards that hold the fish.
He set a course straight back to port in Onehunga because of the rough conditions.
It took more than eight hours of motoring through the night to get back to safety, he said.
The ship arrived about 5am on Tuesday morning - just hours before the fish were found washed up at Muriwai Beach.
"[The crew] felt good [to be back]. The job was done. I guess we were quite relieved to be back, all safe and well.
"The power of the waves that came over the side, and the volume of water, was enough to break boards [used to hold fish on board]. They're quite heavy pieces of timber, 12 inches by 2 inches. It was enough [water] to worry most people."
The recent incident with a missing fishing trawler off the coast of Christchurch has highlighted the dangers of the industry, but was also a reminder to all fishermen to keep safety first, Mr Dobbs said.
Three fishermen on board FV Jubilee are missing, feared dead after they made a mayday call from a "brutal" storm at 4.30am on Sunday.
A massive search has been underway since the boat went down, but the men have not been found.
But, despite the dangers, Mr Dobbs won't be saying goodbye to the sea anytime soon.
"It's fine, it's just another day. It just reminds you to be safe, that's all. Keep a good eye on everything.
"I've been wanting to fish since I was 5-years-old. It's the only thing I've ever done. It was my first job."
Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd chief executive Carl Carrington today said, while the loss of the fish was regrettable, Mr Dobbs had acted in the safest and most responsible way.
"The skipper has done everything right," Mr Carrington said.
"Coming straight back to port to ensure the safety of his crew was paramount in this situation. He had recorded the loss on his catch landing report as he is required to do."
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said fishery officers rushed to meet the boat when it arrived in port on Tuesday morning.
Officers visited Muriwai Beach on Tuesday after being made aware of the washed-up fish, and were also able to establish a trawler had been working off Muriwai on Monday night through new vessel-monitoring technology.
The technology showed an "unusual kink" in the boat's course -- corresponding with the crew's version of events, the spokesman said.
Fisheries officers collected the catch returns for the trip and further information from the boat's electronic equipment for further analysis.
The monitoring equipment is a joint Government and industry initiative to improve information available for sustainably managed fisheries.
• MPI encourages people to report any suspicious fishing activity to confidential hotline 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224).