What Is Magnet Fishing?

Magnet fishing is the metal detectorist’s version of exploring the uncharted and hidden depths of the sea for all manner of secret and mysterious treasures.

While it isn’t as dangerous and doesn’t require a fraction of the budget that large scale ocean-bound salvage operations do, it does offer the same sort of thrill of exploration and searching for something unknown that diving for long-forgotten booty and prizes does, albeit on a much smaller and more affordable scale. 

We may have over-egged the pudding slightly, as magnet fishing doesn’t entail heading out to sea on a boat (although, theoretically with the right equipment you could strike out for the horizon to fish the bottom of the sea), and it doesn’t involve diving into the briny deep.

But what it does do, is offer you the opportunity to try your hand at trawling the bottom of the rivers, lakes, streams, and canals that litter the country, and the rock pools that line its coastline, without having to submerge yourself in the cold, and often uninviting water. 

It sounds rather exciting, doesn’t it? And truth be told, it is so hold on tight, as we’re going to take you on a crash course in magnet fishing, and explain what it is, how you can do it, and everything that you need to know in the order in order to successfully navigate the waterways of this fair island and discover what lies below the surface without having to risk life or limb. 

How To Fish The Hidden Depths? 

Magnet fishing is exactly what its name suggests it is, fishing using a magnet. Instead of catching the scaly denizens of river streams that make perfect dinner plate partners for chips, magnet fishers use the tools of their trade to salvage the metal detritus and treasures that lie at the bottom of the nation’s waterways. 

Once, and best, described as a combination of treasure hunting and environmentalism, it’s the ecological hobby that can put a few extra pennies in your pocket.

While the chances of striking it rich as a magnet fisher are slim at best, you can haul potentially harmful metal objects from the depths, and occasionally stumble across all sorts of unusual items.

Fisherfolk have discovered everything from ancient coins and artefacts to loaded guns in the pursuit of their pastime, so who knows what you might find? 

All you need to become a magnet fisher is a pair of gloves, a neodymium magnet and a long length of rope. The rope is tied to the incredibly powerful magnet (it needs to be strong in order to pull whatever you’ve caught out of the sand and silt of riverbeds and lake bottoms to the surface), and the magnet is cast into the waterway being “fished”.

If the magnet is attracted to something metallic when it’s thrown into the water of your chosen location, that means you’ve “caught” something. And just like in normal fishing, whatever you’ve caught will remain a mystery until you pull it out of the water. 

While would-be magnet fishers used to have to source their magnets and rope separately, as the hobby has grown in stature, more and more companies have started to fashion and sell purpose made magnet fishing kits, and armed with one, you can head straight out to your nearest river, and see what you can catch. 

Magnet Fishing And The Law

For the most part, the laws governing magnet fishing are the same as they are for metal detection, and as long as you’re familiar with them, you should be well-versed in almost everything that you need to know while you’re “fishing”.

And, just as you do while you’re detecting, if you do go fishing on private land, you’ll need the express permission of the landowner before you cast your first line, and you’re legally bound to report anything that you find while magnet fishing on private land to the aforementioned landowner. 

There is one notable exception, and an extra-legal clause that you need to be aware of before you begin to cast your lines, and that is that it is illegal to magnet fish on, or in, any waters owned by the Canal and River Trust.

The law states that no person can remove any object from the waters they own, and any person caught doing so will be subject to an immediate twenty five pound fine.  It’s always best to make sure who, if anyone owns the rivers or lakes you intend to fish before you begin, so you know exactly what your legal position is. 

The (Not So) Hidden Dangers Of Magnet Fishing

While you don’t need to get wet, or actually stand in the water that you’re fishing, there’s always a chance that you can fall in, so remember to be aware of your surroundings at all times. There are, tragically, at least two cases on record of magnet fishers having drowned while they were engrossed in the hobby.

Our best advice? Always make sure that you fish from a safe and secure location, and never go magnet fishing alone, so there’ll always be someone on hand to help you if things do go wrong. 

The danger of drowning is fairly obvious, but the other underappreciated and potentially lethal aspect of magnet fishing involves the magnets it uses.

Because the neodymium magnets that are part of the hobby are so strong, they can interfere with pacemakers, so you’ll need to be careful if you intend to go fishing with anyone who has had a pacemaker fitted, as it poses a significant risk to their wellbeing. 

Last, but not least is the ecological damage that magnet fishing can do. Repeatedly throwing a magnet into riverways and lakes can disturb and damage the potentially fragile ecosystems that exist in the waterways of Britain.

It’s worth finding out as much about where you intend to go magnet fishing as you possibly can in order to avoid becoming the person who might wipe out an incredibly rare or hitherto undiscovered species while on your latest quest to find a few Roman coins. 

The Final (Magnet) Fishing Word

That’s just about everything you’ll need to know about the secret art of water-bound metal detecting, so have fun, be careful, be safe and enjoy your adventures in magnet fishing. 



Written by Gavin Bowler

Keen history and blogging enthusiast. I love metal detecting. Read more of Gavin's articles.