Police say a fisherman missing in Tauranga was dragged 200 metres through the water by a stingray on the end of his line before he disappeared from view.
They say Peato Samele Ilalio, 40, was fishing off the wharf at Kauri Point when he jumped into the water to retrieve his fishing rod on Thursday.
Police and navy dive squads are searching for Mr Ilalio's body after attempts by the Coastguard, rescue helicopter and members of the public failed over the past two days. Mr Ilalio's family are being supported by police.
He is one of four men who died in New Zealand waters while fishing or gathering kai moana over the Christmas holiday period. A fifth man drowned in a home bath.