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NSW fisherman died 'doing what he loved'

AAP logoAAP 3/01/2017 Anna Hitchings

An 80-year-old man who drowned while fishing on the NSW south coast died "doing what he loved", police said.

Police searched Bewong Creek, south of Nowra, on Tuesday night following reports the local man didn't return home from a fishing trip.

The "avid fisherman", whose body was found just after 8am on Wednesday in the creek near his boat, is the 19th person in NSW to drown or die while in the water since Christmas Day.

Of the 19 people who died all but two were male, with 11 aged between 40 and 80.

"He died in tragic circumstances doing what he loved, fishing, and our thoughts also go out to all the families who tragically have had a loved one lost over the last couple of weeks while being on our waterways," Shoalhaven police Chief Inspector Steven Johnson said.

Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman Liam Howitt says the high propensity of male drownings could be due to a range of factors, but that they follow a set pattern.

"These drownings reinforce research done over past 10 years, that the most at-risk group is males," he told AAP.

"What all the evidence is suggesting is it's been a busy, high visitation rate over Christmas, so there's certainly more people heading to the water and as that number rises it makes sense that rescues rise as well."

The 80-year-old, who was possibly thrown overboard, was an experienced fisherman but was not believed to have been wearing a life jacket at the time, police said.

"If you are out in the beach, make sure that you are between the flags and don't swim in dangerous conditions. If you are on a boat ... under 4.2 metres, make sure you are wearing a life jacket, or any other time in which the law prescribes," Chief Insp Johnson said.

Another possible factor in the holiday's incidents is the lack of life savers present, Mr Howitt said.

"There's been a huge spike in incidents in the inland rivers where there's no surf life saving service," he said.

"Generally a significant percentage of drownings occur at beaches where there's no surf life saving people present. There's no excuse to not swim in a patrolled location, that's something we've consistently said."

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