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A fisherman was recovered from the water after rescuers spotted the reflective strips on his lifejacket, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.
The angler, aged in his late 60s, was thrown into the water by a wave after anchoring his small boat about a quarter of a mile offshore at the mouth of the Beaulieu River in Hampshire.
A member of the public on Lepe Beach heard cries for help from the water just before 11pm on Thursday 29th September and made a 999 call to Solent Coastguard.
A rescue operation involving the Southampton Coastguard rescue team, RNLI lifeboats and the police helicopter was launched.
An MCA spokesman said:
''They spotted reflective strips on a lifejacket in the water, directing the Calshot inshore lifeboat in to pull the angler from the water.''
The unnamed fisherman was said to have been in an ''extremely bad way'' suffering from hypothermia but was now recovering in hospital, Hampshire Police said.
Tony Wheeler, Solent Coastguard watch manager, said:
''This angler was found because of his lifejacket.
''It was the reflective strips that the helicopter quickly spotted with their search light and enabled them to guide the lifeboat straight to him.
''Although the angler was taken to hospital in a serious condition he was found alive because of his lifejacket. The MCA recommends that recreational water users should wear lifejackets at all times whilst on deck.
''These should be well maintained and should have a sprayhood, light and whistle if possible. People must ensure that their lifejacket has a crotch strap and that they use it.''