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What Is Magnet Fishing? Our Full Guide

Mark Armstrong
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Magnet fishing seems to be becoming an increasingly popular pastime, particularly in the US and the UK. But what exactly is it?

To give you a better understanding of what this hobby is, we have put together a guide that will hopefully let you learn more about it, as well as give you an idea of what you might need if you want to give it a go.

Magnet Fishing?! Seriously…What Is It?

Fishing For Treasure

Magnet fishing is essentially fishing with a magnet, rather than with a rod, line, hook and bait. But instead of catching fish, you’re catching metal objects that get “hooked” to your magnet.

This means that while you might not catch anything to eat for dinner, you could reel in some valuable treasure.

By attaching a magnet to a rope, you can pull up all sorts of things that have been hidden under the water for years, often decades and sometimes centuries, if you’re lucky.

Video: Magnet Fishing 900 Year Old Ruins

Magnetic objects under the water should become stuck to your magnet when you lower it into the water on your rope. When something attaches to your magnet, you can then slowly pull it up and out of the water.

It can be a lot like hunting for treasure with a metal detector but, instead, the treasure is hidden underwater. And your handy metal detecting magnet will stick to your treasure so that you can then haul it out, rather than you having to dig for it like you would with a traditional metal detector.

Hunting For History

Magnet fishing can be an exciting hobby, with the potential to uncover treasure with great historical value.

Some items that have been found while magnet fishing have included grenades, bombs and other weapons from World War I and II, as well as other historical objects, including coins and jewelry.

Cleaning Up The Waterways

Over the years, many objects can become lost, abandoned or discarded in our waterways. Magnet fishing can be one way of retrieving or finding these items, so it can be a good way of clearing up rivers and lakes, especially in urban areas where a lot of the items might be considered litter or debris.

Is It Dangerous?

Magnet fishing can be dangerous if you’re not careful, as some of the items you haul up could be weapons with live ammunition.

If you find any guns or unexploded bombs, or any other type of dangerous weapon, you should report it to the police or local authorities.

The magnets themselves can also be dangerous because of their strength and their tendency to shatter when two of them are put together.

Magnets can also easily attach to objects that you’re not intending to “catch”, such as pipes, metal structures or even boats on the water. So it’s important that you consider your surroundings before you throw or drop your magnet.

Is It Legal?

At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any particular laws against magnet fishing in the United States but legislation could always change in the future.

As long as you have permission to take objects out of a particular body of water then it should be fine for you to magnet fish there. But it’s always a good idea to check with your local authorities or your state’s fish and wildlife department beforehand.

One thing to remember is not to throw any of the items you find back into the water, as littering can be against the law.

Where Would You Go Magnet Fishing?

Any Water?

Kansas River - great for kayakingPin

You can go magnet fishing pretty much anywhere, as long as you have permission of the landowner, if the body of water is on private land or is privately owned.

Lakes and rivers can be ideal places to magnet fish, but canals, ponds and streams can also harbor a variety of hidden trinkets.

Both rural and urban waterways can be great for magnet fishing, with some urban areas possibly having more discarded items, for example abandoned shopping carts.

Rural areas where there may be less magnet fishers may, however, turn out more unique items that could possibly have been hidden for a lot longer.

You can even magnet fish in the ocean, for example at the beach or off a pier. Because the ocean is so deep you’ll usually only be able to do this in the shallows.

Remember to think about the depth of the water in your chosen location, as this will affect the length of rope that you’ll need for your magnet. Most of the metal treasure you’ll find will likely be sitting at the bottom of the lake or river, so your rope should be long enough for your magnet to reach the bottom.

Kayak Magnet Fishing

While magnet fishing can be done easily from the banks of a river or lake, getting out on a kayak could help you discover even more treasure that isn’t quite as easily accessible to landlubbers.

Video: Magnet Fishing From A Kayak

Areas of water that don’t have pedestrian access can be ideal places for magnet fishing from a kayak or canoe.

However, remember to consider the weight of the item you might be pulling up. If it’s heavier than the capacity of your kayak, it might be safer just to leave it where it is or get help from another magnet fisher.

You don’t want to risk capsizing.

Will I Pick Up Anything Cool? (Magnet Fishing Finds)

Real Treasure?

The type of treasure you might pick up will mostly depend on the location where you plan to magnet fish. If the body of water is in an area that has historical significance you may have a greater chance of finding something older than a couple of a decades.

Lakes, streams and rivers that are close to known battle grounds may be more likely to harbor old war items. Similarly, if you magnet fish near where old settlements used to be then you could potentially discover some pretty cool treasure, such as from the days of the Gold Rush or from early pioneers or native Americans.

Even if you don’t have any historically significant towns or areas near you, you can still haul up interesting objects. People seem to lose stuff in the water all the time, from keys to bicycles. So you never know what you might find.

What You Need To Get Going

  • Magnet – this strong neodymium magnet is double sided, small and lightweight and comes with eye bolts so you can easily attach your rope. The double magnetic sides can make it easier for fishing as you’re not reliant on just one side picking up treasure.
  • Nylon rope – this 6 millimeter rope has a handy locking carabiner attached to it and is 64 feet long with a strength of up to 550 pounds. This can be useful for magnet fishing in most areas.
  • Gloves – these fishing gloves can be ideal for providing extra grip for pulling rope and giving your hands some added protection.
  • Bucket – a bucket can be ideal for holding the treasure you find and this one is collapsible, making it easier to pack with your gear and easier to store if you’re on a kayak.

You could also consider buying a kit, like this one.

How To Go Magnet Fishing

Step 1: Find Your Water

Once you’ve found the body of water you want to magnet fish in, scout out a good location to stand in. Ideally, this should be where you’re not in close proximity to any metallic structures, as your magnet can easily be become attached to these.

You may also want to be a sufficient distance away from casting anglers, since you don’t want to disturb them or, even worse, cling to their hooks.

Step 2: Set Up Your Gear

Now that you’re at your fishing spot, prepare your gear. Attach your magnet to your rope, either by securing it with a knot or using a carabiner clip. Make sure the knot is tight and will not loosen under the water.

A Palomar knot, commonly used for attaching hooks to fishing line, can be a useful knot to use for magnet fishing.

Video: How To Tie A Palomar Knot (for the magnet)

Step 3: Throw In Your Magnet

If you’re fishing in a canal, you can simply lower your magnet into the water, keeping a tight grip on your rope. This can also work if you’re in a kayak.

If you’re at a lake or other large body of water, you can also throw your magnet out into the water, keeping a hold of your rope.

Step 4: Reel It In

Once you’ve noticed your magnet cling to something, start pulling the magnet back in. Pull the rope gently and carefully, so that you don’t inadvertently lose whatever it is you’ve found.

Step 5: Drag Your Magnet

If you haven’t managed to catch anything by simply throwing and pulling in, try moving the magnet along the bottom of the water by walking along the river bank.

This method might be more difficult if you’re at a lake. But if you’re in a kayak, you can paddle along while your magnet is underwater.

This can allow you to cover a larger underwater area and could give you more of a chance of finding something.


Hopefully some of your questions about magnet fishing have been answered and you’re ready to magnet fish yourself. Remember to check your local laws before you head out and stay safe while you’re magnet fishing.

Maybe you’ve already had a go and found something cool? We’d love to hear about any treasure you’ve found so let us know in the comments. Get your buddies interested too – just share this with them.

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