A man has been rescued after spending 23.5 hours in the water after he fell overboard during a solo fishing trip off Whangamatā.

The man had set off on the fishing trip on January 2 aboard his 40-foot boat, with the intention of returning the following day.

Near the Alderman Islands he fell overboard some 55km off the North Island after he hooked what he believed was a marlin. He was unable to catch the idling boat as it meandered further out of reach.

The man attempted to swim to the Alderman Islands, but was dragged away by the currents and endured a cold night in the ocean where even a shark came to “have a sniff”, however he was too exhausted to keep swimming.

Incredibly, about 2pm on Wednesday, three fishermen were on a boat near Mayor Island when they noticed an unusual reflection on the water.

They decided to investigate and discovered the fisherman desperately trying to get their attention using the reflection of the sun on his watch.

The trio plucked him from the water, immediately alerted police and set course for Whangamatā Marina.

“It is an absolute miracle the fisherman is still alive after the ordeal,” Whangamatā Police Sergeant Will Hamilton said. “Without the quick actions of the three gentlemen that retrieved him, this certainly would have had a tragic outcome.”

The man was hypothermic and exhausted when he was returned to land, where a St John ambulance crew was waiting to treat him.

In a note to police, the man said he wanted to go on record to thank Mike, Tyler and James for rescuing him, along with all the emergency services involved.

It’s not known where the man’s boat has ended up, with the Rescue Coordination Centre advised of the last-known direction, fuel on board and speed, so navigation warnings can be issued.

Boaties are being asked to report any sightings of empty powered vessels.

“Few stories end the way this one did, and police cannot thank the eagle-eyed trio enough for making the call to investigate something that looked out of the ordinary,” Hamilton said.