The hobby is a combination of environmentalism and treasure hunting. The magnets used are strong enough to remove large debris such as discarded bicycles, guns, safes, bombs, coins and car tire rims from bodies of water, but many who engage in the hobby are hoping to find rare and valuable items as well. Magnet fishers have also been known to return stolen safes to their owners after a number of years.
It is thought magnet fishing was initially started by boaters using magnets to recover fallen keys from the water.
Some environmentalists worry that removing objects can stir up sediment that contains toxic materials, or disturb archaeological sites. Some magnet fishers have retrieved dangerous objects, including loaded guns and unexploded ordinance.
Magnet fishing and the law
Depending on the jurisdiction, anything of value may belong to the local government, not the finder.
England & Wales
Magnet fishing is subject to local regulations concerning outdoor waters. It is legal but the Canal & River Trust, which owns most of the UK's canals, has bylaws prohibiting people from removing material from the canal and rivers it owns so fishers may be subject to a £25 fine, to magnet-fish, or remove any material from canal or inland navigation under the control of the Canal & River Trust in England or Wales, other than the Lee and Stort Navigation, Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, and River Severn Navigation. The Trust "expressly prohibit[s]" the practice although it refrains from legal action against first-time offenders. In 2018, a child magnet-fished a sawn-off shotgun out of the Titford Canal in Oldbury, West Midlands.
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- Elliott, Coran (18 August 2018). "Safety warning as rise in magnet fishing hobby sees anglers fish out guns and grenades in UK rivers". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 August 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018. Alt URL
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- Casting about for a new pastime during the pandemic? With magnet fishing, "it's all about the find"
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- "General Canal Bye-laws" (PDF). British Waterways Board. 24 February 1965. p. 16. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
41. No person unless authorised by the Board in that behalf or otherwise legally entitled so to do shall: ... (d) Dredge or remove coal or other material from any canal.
- "Family find sawn-off shotgun in canal". ITV News. 28 August 2018. Archived from the original on 29 August 2018.
- "Behörde warnt eindringlich vor Magnetangeln" [Authority warns urgently against magnetic fishing] (in German). Hamburg: Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack GmbH & Co. KG. RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
- "Umweltgebührenordnung (UmwGebO) Vom 5. Dezember 1995" [Environmental fee schedule (UmwGebO) From December 5, 1995]. Landesrecht online (in German). Hamburg. 5 December 1995. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
- "'Magneetvissers' bezorgen dozen met munitie en wapens aan speurders Bende van Nijvel". De Standaard (in Dutch). Antwerp, Belgium: Nieuwsblad.be. Raad voor de journalistiek. 26 October 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
- "'Magnet fishing' hobbyist finds firearm in water at Reaume Park in east Windsor". Windsor Star. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
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