'Not Lost' Fisherman Sparks $250,000 Search

It’s the bizarre fisherman’s tale that has everyone on the Sunshine Coast scratching their heads.

Experienced crab fisherman Steve Gallagher was reported missing from the Barameda-K boat off Double Island Point early yesterday morning.

It was feared he’d fallen overboard, sparking a very expensive, marathon search mission.

"For RACQ Lifeflight Rescue alone there were three helicopters involved at an estimated cost of upwards of $250,000” said Julie Korner from Lifeflight.

The Barameda K -- the little silver man-hole is where the deckhand was found.

But the deckhand had never fallen overboard.

He was, in fact, hiding for 14 hours in a cramped compartment underneath the back deck of the boat.

Skipper Peter Rockliff raised the alarm when he couldn’t find his mate.

“He was just leaning on some dillies there wasn’t doing much. I turned to do some things on the computer and I turned back around he was gone,” Rockliff said.

“I shut the boat down so it was silent and yelled his name."

Along with his 14-year-old son George, Rockliff joined the search party.

Eight helicopters, a jet, fixed-winging aircraft and a number of boats were also involved.

Peter Rockliff and his son George. Peter raised the alarm when he thought his mate fell overboard (Image: 10 News First)

“The second time I looked down there I still couldn't see him, I only noticed that the handle had been moved and I saw a bit of shirt, a flanellete shirt that was moving," he said.

"That’s when I realised he was down underneath a heap of rope."

Rockliff was relieved to find his mate late yesterday afternoon, but was also angry about the drama that had been caused.

The 45 year old was taken to hospital last night, it’s not believed he’d suffered any physical injuries.

Police are still investigating.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.