A man who spent nearly 24 hours in the water at sea off Whangamatā, has been rescued after using the reflection from his wristwatch to catch the attention of three fishermen.

The man, who has not been named, got into trouble when he fell overboard from his 40-foot boat while on a solo fishing trip on Tuesday.

Near the Alderman Islands, he hooked what he suspects was a marlin, before falling overboard some 30 nautical miles (55km) off the North Island.

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.

According to New Zealand police, the man endured a cold night in the ocean, and even came face to face with a shark who had come to “have a sniff”.

The man was eventually rescued after three fishermen decided to investigate after noticing an unusual reflection on the water.

They discovered it was the man desperately trying to get their attention using the reflection of the sun on his watch.

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

“The boaties did an absolute stellar job and without a doubt saved this man’s life.”

The man was swiftly taken to Whangamatā Marina, where he was treated for hypothermia and exhaustion.

The police added that the man wanted to thank the fishermen – named as Mike, Tyler and James – for rescuing him, along with all the emergency services.

The location of his boat remains unknown and boaties are asked to report any sightings of empty powered vessels.