Family waits to hear fate of fishers

Two missing fisherman at Port Waikato, the family recieve an update from police.
Rebekah Parsons-King/Fairfax NZ

Two missing fisherman at Port Waikato, the family recieve an update from police.

A man presumed drowned in seas off Port Waikato has been described by family and friends as a knowledgeable and experienced fisherman.

Arthur Brown, 67, from Tuakau and a 57-year-old friend from Palmerston North have been missing since Monday, when they failed to return from a fishing trip at Port Waikato.

Vicki Carter, partner of Brown, described him as a "very experienced fisherman" who had crossed the sandbar at Port Waikato many times.

Carter declined to comment further on her missing partner.

A Tuakau local who did not want to be named said Brown was a "keen and knowledgeable" fisherman.

Lionel Petersen, Tuakau local and the Awaroa ki Tuakau councillor on the Waikato District Council , said he did not know Brown, but said the locals were weary of the sandbar at Port Waikato.

"It's a well known dangerous bar; you think you know where it is but it has moved.

A few years ago the sand dunes were growing, but now they are eroding. The entire coastline from here (Port Waikato) to Wellington is moving."

Petersen said fishermen have gone missing in the past and urges those that plan to go fishing in the area to not be "complacent."

A partner of one of the men raised the alarm and a search was launched around the Port Waikato bar and coastline as far south as Raglan Heads. Aerial searches of Port Waikato on Wednesday showed no sign of the two fishermen.

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Police Eagle helicopter swept the area at low tide looking for the pair. Police reached the boat stuck on the sand early Wednesday and found no sign of the pair.

Eagle helicopter also searched the Manukau bar area for the 74-year-old man who has been missing since Thursday evening when he was thrown from his boat, also finding no sign of him.

Police are continuing to support the family of the three missing men at this very difficult time.

The search moved to a body-recovery phase on Wednesday because the pair had been missing for more than 24 hours.

Pete Pleydell, president of the Port Waikato Fishing Club, said Brown was a well-known and experienced fisherman.

He competed in the club's fishing tournaments and regularly fished down the Waikato River for trevally and kahawai with his partner, brother and friends.

"Everybody is feeling it when something like this happens, especially when we know him personally," Pleydell said. Fishing club members had offered support to family and would help in the search if needed.

Pleydell said the Port Waikato bar was a "typical bar" that came with its risks.

Coastguard crew confirmed the missing men had lifejackets and a cellphone on board but no contact had been made with shore.

Malcolm Beattie, president of the Trust Waikato Sunset Beach Surf Lifesaving Service, said crews were on standby to help in the search if needed.

"We haven't been asked yet, but our facilities have been made available," he said, adding the chances of finding the men were slim.

"The boat would of been bumped around in the turbulent tide," he said. "I think at this stage they could have gone north with the currents, but sometimes they go south - it is always hard to say."

Port Waikato's bar was unforgiving and with a 2m swell and a "big and short" swell pumping into the bar on Monday at low tide, it would be easy for a recreational fisher to get into trouble, he said.

"It's a rugged bit of water," Beattie said.

"Nobody knows what has happened - if they crossed the bar, did their motor break down? Did their anchor drift - who knows? What we do know is they tipped in turbulent water and that would've been over the bar."

Many fishers tried to get as close to the bar as possible because it was a good fishing spot, he said.

"I don't think he set out to go over the bar."

 - Waikato Times

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