Grave fears are held for a fisherman missing off the NSW north coast.

The 45 year old Evans Head man failed to return from a fishing trip off Evans Head on Friday afternoon.

Police were notified on Saturday morning and a full scale search began.

Bill McKenna from the Richmond local area command said the man’s empty boat was found just before 10 o’clock on Saturday morning with the engine still running and life jackets untouched.

“We don’t believe he did have a life jacket on and it’s quite possible that whilst he was tending to fishing nets out in the water that he may have fallen overboard,” said Inspector Bill McKenna

“The Westpac helicopter located a vessel 15 kilometres off the Evans Head coast, they’ve managed to lower a crew member on to that vessel, unfortunately there was no person on board, what they did notice was that all the safety gear for that vessel was still locked away in the front section of that boat, ” Inspector McKenna said.

Police and emergency services then began a wider search.

“There’s been an extensive search which has covered approximately 1000 km2 and that has been with fixed wing aircraft, helicopters and a large number of vessels,” Insp. McKenna said.

A Search and Rescue beacon was dropped into the ocean next to the boat to get a bearing on which way the man may have been taken.

Rescue helicopter pilot Tom Hulse said tracking the ocean current was the best hope of finding the man.

“Approximately 10 to 15 nautical miles east of Evans Head we winched down a crewman on to the boat just to make sure there was no sign of him and we actually dropped a SAR (Search and rescue) beacon into the ocean next to the boat so we could track the ocean currents to assist with the search, but unfortunately none of us found anything and we continued to search to the south for the rest of the day,” Mr Hulse said.

A boat search continued on Sunday but the police hold grave fears for the man.

“Given the detailed search that’s been undertaken in that area and the fact that all the safety gear was locked away in the front section of that boat, we don’t believe he did have a life jacket on and it’s quite possible that whilst he was tending to fishing nets out in the water that he may have fallen overboard.”

“At this point in time that search is still being carried out but we have grave fears for the owner of that vessel given the time frames and the current conditions, this may well turn into a recovery mission,” Insp. McKenna said.

via Boat fisherman missing off Evans Head – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).