Four men were plucked from the water near Fingal Lighthouse on Sunday after their fishing boat capsized.
Good Samaritans in two separate boats came to the rescue with the stricken anglers “in real trouble”.
Water Police said the exact circumstances remained unclear – apart from the men being “very lucky to be alive”.
“We believe none of them were wearing life jackets so its a timely reminder to wear them,” Marine Area Command Inspector Darren Wood said.
“It’s a good outcome given the circumstances.
“A boat can be recovered but we could easily of had some deaths on our hands if it wasn’t for the assistance of these two boats that just happened to be close by.”
Marine Rescue and the Water Police received the call for help shortly after 12.30am on Sunday.
“We do have very good Water Police and Marine Rescue but luckily the men were rescued before rescue services attended,” Inspector Wood said.
Rob Pearson of Abermain was aboard the second craft to come to their aid.
“The were lucky we were in the area,” Mr Pearson said.
“One of the two blokes we got wasn’t in real good shape at all. He was buggered.”
The four men, believed to be part of a Williamtown fishing club expedition, were about 30 metres out from the rocks when two waves capsized the boat, police said.
Mr Pearson said he had been out fishing off the shelf since 3am and hadn’t planned on returning so soon.
“They were lucky, we wouldn’t normally have been back until 6pm but we pulled the pin early,” he said.
“One of my mates said, ‘what’s that, it looks like a boat’.
“Initially, I saw two people in the water and we radioed coastal patrol.”
Mr Pearson said he was only the second boat on the scene, the first being ‘C Moss’.
“The blokes we got said they had been in the water five or 10 minutes already,” Mr Pearson said.
The men were offered some warm clothing.
“We took them back to Little Beach Boat ramp. They started to come good by then,” Mr Pearson said.
Police said paramedics assessed the four men at the scene but they declined further treatment.
Their boat was washed up onto the rocks. The Department of Defence declined to say if the men were members of a fishing club at RAAF-Base Williamtown.