The disaster Wednesday occurred near Dalian in Liaoning province, the Xinhua News Agency reported. There were both men and women on the boat, which went under two nautical miles from the village port at Houershi.
Rescuers saved one person and retrieved 11 bodies. Authorities said the search for the other five was continuing but the operation involving a helicopter, seven maritime vessels and 120 other boats was hampered by strong winds and rough seas.
The boat was struck by waves as its passengers were preparing to board a larger fishing vessel, the report said. One of them managed to call for help using his satellite phone.
Ten of the victims were migrant workers while the others were locals, including the owner of the fishing boat, the report said.