Fisherman fought off crocodile with an upper cut to its jaw (Arnhem Fisheries)

A French fisherman managed to escape a crocodile's death roll by punching the predator in the face.

Yoann Galeran was attacked by the crocodile in Gove Harbour, Northern Australia, while working for Arnhem Fisheries.

The crocodile had been lurking in the nearby waters for two weeks before the attack, Galeran's boss Lisa Heathcote said.

It grabbed Galeran by the head as he swam out to retrieve a moored dinghy and began rolling him in the water.

Speaking to NT News, he said: "It felt like a big stone or something coming on my head. I just thought for sure that is a croc and I started to think the only thing to do was to move my body as much as I can.

"His weight and the power of him swimming at me just made me dive probably a metre or 50cm under the water.

"With my hand I touched the body of the croc underneath the skull. I pushed him and had the chance to escape. I didn't think about dying. I only thought about fighting to stay alive."

Marriage proposals

The crocodile released the fisherman but then returned to attack him for a second time.

Heathcote said: "It's lucky he's a fit, strong bloke and was able to fight off the croc. A smaller person or child would have been killed.

"He was swimming out and this crocodile has grabbed him by the head and done a roll. Then he's just started punching into it and it let him go. Then it came back at him again but he managed to get his hands under its front legs and push it off.

"He came back into the boat and said he had been attacked by a crocodile. He was laughing but I think it was shock."

As well as having bite marks on his head from the two-metre croc, Galeran also suffered from puncture wounds on his neck and back. He was taken to Gove hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

Heathcote said she expects Galeran to become very popular with the locals as the crocodile is one of their embalms: "I think they are going to think he's pretty damn special because he's wrestled it and got away," she said. "He might get a few marriage proposals out of it."