Magnet Fishing 101: What Is It and Why Is It Dangerous?

If you’re a lover of outdoor hobbies, then it’s quite possible that you’ve heard of magnet fishing.

It is a fairly new hobby that can be a lot of fun for almost all ages. Kits to start off the hobby are fairly cheap too and there’s plenty of interesting things to be uncovered. However, there are some dangers to the hobby that you should take into consideration. In this article, we’ll go over what exactly magnet fishing is and its dangers so you’re informed before taking up this hobby. 

What Is Magnet Fishing?

Magnet fishing, or magnetic fishing, is not actually a form of fishing, sorry anglers. You cannot actually use a magnet to snag fish. Instead, the name is referring to searching through the water with a metal detector. This is done by tying the magnet to the end of a long length of rope with a Palomar knot or a carabiner clip and running it along the bottom of a body of water. 

Magnet fishing equipment on table

Having the right kind of rope and magnet can vastly improve your magnet fishing experience.

By doing this, it is possible to find metal objects and pull them up. The magnets used by hobbyists are strong enough to pull up all sorts of different debris. Sometimes it is just discarded items like bicycles or road signs. Other times, more exciting things can be pulled up such as safes, coins, or even world war artifacts! You’d be surprised as to what people toss in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Magnet Fishing Equipment

There are three essential pieces of equipment for first-time magnet fishers: The magnet, rope, and a pair of gloves. There are other accessories that can help improve your time whilst magnet fishing, but these are what is necessary. 

Magnet

You can’t go magnet fishing without a magnet, especially the right type of magnet. Of course, the process of picking the right magnet isn’t as simple as going to any hobby shop or grocery store and buying any old magnet. If you search for magnets like that you’ll never find the right one. 

What you’re looking for specifically is called a neodymium magnet. This type of magnet is sometimes referred to as a “rare earth” magnet. These are well known for their very high pull forces and will likely be able to grab onto and hold whatever you find whilst magnet fishing.

You should also make sure that your magnet has an eyebolt so you can tie your rope onto it. These magnets come in a variety of different strengths. Your most basic neodymium magnets usually can hold anywhere from 300-400 pounds.

These magnets are pretty strong and reliable but if you’re looking to haul in big treasure, or want to ensure nothing will fall of your magnet, you’ll need something stronger. That’s when you’ll need to find a strong neodymium magnet that can support 1200 pounds or more. 

These super strong magnets will make sure that you’ll never lose whatever you’re pulling in. Additionally, it’ll be easier to find things in the water because of how hard the magnet is pulling. If you’re serious about magnet fishing, these tough magnets are what you should be shopping for.

You can look for them on websites like Amazon or Brute Magnetics. Something else to consider is whether or not you want a double-sided or one-sided magnet. These are what they sound like, a one-sided magnet has the magnetized surface on one side and a double-sided magnet has it on both.

Each type has pros and cons that we’ll cover briefly. One-sided magnets are great if you’re just dropping a magnet into a body of water. Ideally, you’d use this type of magnet while on a bridge, pier, or dock. It works the best when you can just drop the magnet straight down.

The downside is that, while retrieving, your magnet may not catch interesting finds as it drags across the bottom of wherever you’re fishing. Double-sided magnets are excellent for throwing or casting your magnet into the water. It can still work when dropping straight down but won’t be as efficient as a one-sided magnet.

These magnets are very efficient at catching things as they’re dragged across the bottom of the water. The downside here is that they’re more expensive than their one-sided cousins. There are, however, a few dangerous aspects to these magnets that should be taken into consideration.

Stronger magnets especially can cause problems if you’re not careful. We’ll take about them later as we get into other nuances about the hobby. 

Rope

Obviously, you’ll need a good, sturdy rope to hold onto and pull whilst magnet fishing. The last thing you want it be pulling in a good haul, only to have your rope break and have your magnet join the treasures beneath the water. Indeed, a tough rope is just as important as a strong magnet. 

When looking at magnet fishing kits, or making your own, you will come across a few types of rope. Most pre-made kits will come with either a type of nylon rope or something made of paracord. These are commonly found in kits as they’re the most reliable type of ropes for the job. 

Paracord is a very reliable type of rope. Not only is it very light and durable, but also very strong. With this type of rope, you’ll be certain to never lose your magnet. There is one downside to this type of rope though, and that’s the overall size of it.

Paracord is generally not very thick, so it can be hard to get a proper grip on. Ultimately, you’re trading in comfort for functionality if you use this type of rope. The other type of rope that you should use is nylon. This is a heavy type of rope that can take a lot of abuse and is perfect if you’re trying to pull something from under the mud or other debris.

The reason it’s good for this is that it actually stretches just a bit if put under tension. When we go magnet fishing, we prefer the paracord over the nylon rope. The paracord is usually of better quality and leads to a better experience overall. We’ve known magnet fishers who bring both types to their favorite spots, to fit the situation. 

Gloves

Something that you might not think to bring at first is gloves. This plays into some of the potential dangers of magnet fishing we referenced earlier. Simply put, there’s a lot of gross and potentially harmful things you’ll pull up while magnet fishing.

Old fishing hooks, jagged pieces of metal, or even slimy old hubcaps. Therefore, it is pretty important to get a very reliable pair of gloves. Unless of course, you like to touch all of the slimy sludge your treasures will bring to the surface with them.

Otherwise, you should look for two important qualities in your gloves: water and puncture resistance. Puncture and water-resistance are pretty self-explanatory qualities. You don’t want to get poked or cut by a rusty old fishing hook or a jagged piece of metal.

Something like that can seriously injure you or make you ill. And you’ll want water resistance because you’ll be constantly pulling on a soaking wet rope, grabbing a wet rope, and whatever is attached to your magnet. 

Apparel

Since you’re going to be around water, you’ll obviously need to wear some appropriate attire. However, a simple swimsuit is not the only thing that you should consider. There are actually some other articles of clothing and accessories that will help in your treasure hunting adventure. 

The first thing to consider is footwear. While a simple pair of flip flops, sandals or something similar might be an obvious first choice, think about how long you’ll be in the water. Additionally, think about what could possibly be in the water.

There could be jagged rocks, sharp debris, or things like zebra mussels. With all this in consideration, you should look into something more appropriate. Namely, waterproof shoes or boots. These will prevent your feet from getting soaking wet or hurt if you plan on magnet fishing in shallow waters.

There are even some boots that will come complete with snake guards. Always remember to use apparel that’s appropriate for your area. Another thing you might want to consider for angling is waders. These are essentially waterproof overalls that come with boots attached to the pant legs. These are perfect if you need to go into deeper waters as they’ll keep all of your lower and most of your upper body dry. 

Grappling Hook

A piece of magnet fishing gear that’s not always necessary. But some treasure hunters use grappling hooks as they’re used to help pull up particularly heavy finds. 

Where Should I Go Magnet Fishing?

One of the more important aspects of magnet fishing is choosing an appropriate location. Going to any old body of water and tossing a magnet in won’t always wield treasure. In fact, you may find nothing at all with this method. Instead, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances. 

First of all, you should put in an appropriate amount of research. Perhaps you know about a nearby lake or river that sounds like a good place for your first excursion. A simple search on the internet can possibly reveal the entire history behind that body of water.

You may find that it is barely used or maybe an old wealthy family used to own an estate nearby. By doing some basic research you’ll be able to infer whether or not your location is primed for magnet fishing. It’s also a good idea to take a look at the place yourself to see what you’re dealing with. 

Ideally, you’ll want to look for bodies of water that have a lot of people near them. Public lakes where people go fishing, swimming, or do other activities will likely have a decent amount of things at the bottom. Marinas or areas with a lot of docks are also excellent locations.

Since people are always getting in and out of boats, there’s a surprisingly high chance someone’s dropped something. Bridges or piers are also excellent places to go magnet fishing. To put it simply, any place that has a high chance of someone dropping something is ideal. There’s usually plenty of things to be found in these high-traffic areas. 

The Dangers of Magnet Fishing

Despite how fun and exciting this hobby is, it doesn’t come without a few dangers. These mainly pertain to the magnet itself, especially the more powerful ones. There are plenty of scenarios that can result in serious injury if you’re not careful.

Therefore, it’s important to be informed and cautious before you start magnet fishing. One of the dangers you need to be prepared to deal with when getting into this hobby is the strength of the magnets. Why is this a point of concern, you might ask?

Well, some of the more powerful magnets on the market have a pull strength of 1500 pounds! Something that much magnetic strength can attract objects extremely fast. The speed at which objects come at the magnet can be dangerous.

If you have a finger or other body part in between a metallic object and a magnet, you can get pinched or smashed. To add to this danger, the metallic object clashing with the magnet can sometimes create shrapnel. This shrapnel is caused by either the attracted object or the magnet chipping or having a piece break off.

The shrapnel can be sent off at high speeds and can cause harm if it hits a person. Something like this won’t usually happen with weaker magnets, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! Additionally, you need to be careful when removing objects from your magnet.

Man found rusty iron metal axe in river water by magnet

An extremely strong magnet can cause serious shrapnel injuries when magnet fishing.

You may think that the obvious and quick way of removing objects is to simply pull them off. But you must remember, your magnet has an extremely strong pull force. Removing things by pulling them can be a feat of strength in and of itself. 

To avoid straining yourself or causing other injuries, it is best to simply slide the object off of the magnet. It is much easier and safer than trying to pull things off of the magnet. You have to remember, depending on where you go magnet fishing, you might end up finding a lot of fishing lures or hooks and these can leave some nasty wounds if you’re not careful. 

Something else to watch out for when magnet fishing is electronic damage. Magnets can cause certain devices like computers and other electronic equipment to go on the fritz or completely ruin them. Therefore it is best if you do what you can to make sure your magnet isn’t near anything electronic.

This is doubly true if you have a more powerful magnet as it will do more damage than a weaker one. There’s also the possibility of finding dangerous objects when magnet fishing. People have reported retrieving guns, knives, and even unexploded bombs!

If you find something like this it’s important to deliver it to the proper authorities immediately. While this should be a no-brainer, remember to avoid trespassing. The last thing you want is to get into legal trouble for pursuing a hobby.

Additionally, some countries and states have some laws against magnet fishing. Make sure you do your research before tossing your magnet in a lake!  

Final Verdict

Magnet fishing certainly is an interesting emerging hobby. Lots of people love it and you can find lots of interesting treasures. However, it doesn’t come without some dangers, so be sure to exercise caution and safety above all things! Remember to always dress appropriately and bring other outdoor tools, just in case. 

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Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.