The Cape Hatteras, operated by David McAuliffe, 32, left Absecon Inlet, which divides Atlantic City from Brigantine, at 7:45 a.m., the Coast Guard said in a news release. Watchstanders received a signal from the vessel's EPIRB 3 hours later and launched a search when McAuliffe did not respond to radio and cellphone calls.
The vessel was near Great Egg Harbor Inlet a few miles south of Atlantic City. The owner said Great Egg Harbor was the Cape Hatteras' destination.
A Coast Guard helicopter spotted a life raft from the missing boat but saw no sign of the operator.
Maritime units from local police departments joined the search, the Coast Guard said.