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Magnet Fishing answers the question, 'What's down there?' (25 photos)

Popular hobby/pastime catching on for many. Finds include fishing lures, knives, keys and the occasional gun

Magnet or magnetic fishing is becoming a very popular hobby/pastime for many individuals and often whole family units that have been in search of activities to keep them engaged, together and outdoors during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The history of magnet fishing is believed to have begun with fishers and boaters who may have lost keys and other metal objects in the water and started recovering them using a magnet. It became very popular in the UK since the two world wars left plenty of good finds beneath the water. Later the pastime moved over to North America.

A combination of environmentalism and treasure hunting, the practice of magnet fishing involves searching lake bottoms or river beds for magnetic items by using a high-powered magnet attached to the end of a rope that is tossed out and allowed to fall to the bottom. These items may have been lost unintentionally or just discarded carelessly into the water.

Proponents say their goals are to clean up lakes and rivers, freeing them of metallic pollutants, and to find a treasure.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation and lockdowns, those starting out magnet fishing in the area have generally limited their outings to the Algoma District and around Sault Ste. Marie. Piers, docks and bridges prove to be viable options for treasure hunting.

Sault Ste. Marie, with its location on the St. Marys River, is an optimal place for such undertakings since the river's shoreline is dotted with many of these structures. SooToday found two families who recently took up the hobby.

For Jeff McKersie, the thrill of the possibility of finding a treasure seems to be the primary motivation but the positive effect on the environment that can be passed on as a lesson to the younger generation almost as strong a motivation. He and his family recently took up the hobby while looking for something to do together during the pandemic.

Glenn McLean also took up the hobby after getting excited over a video about magnet fishing that was posted by a friend in the UK. His interest prompted him to do some research of his own on the subject, leading him to a fun family hobby.

For whatever reason, you decide the hobby is right for you it's important to do your research first. If you don't like getting dirty or wet the hobby may not be for you. Like most tools, all magnets are not created equal. Some are better suited for certain situations often based on the vantage points.

General tools required with magnet fishing consist of a good quality Neodymium magnet (the strongest type of magnet available), a long good quality rope (usually between 50 & 100 feet), cut-proof gloves to keep fingers from getting pinched, cut or blistered, a carabiner is optional to attach the magnet to the rope, Lock Tight to keep the eye bolt on the magnet in place, grappling hook to help with items the magnet may not be able to handle alone and a good-sized bucket to carry your finds home in. A come-along winch is a good optional tool to have on hand in the event your magnet gets stuck between rocks or somewhere else or for general purpose when an item is too large to remove from the water by magnet and rope alone.

Aside from the usual awareness of your surroundings and common courtesies of minding traffic and other people who may be fishing in the area, or working with a partner, there are safety concerns you should consider when heading out.

McKersie suggests, if you’re bringing little ones, have them wear a life jacket. This one is common sense since you’re around rivers and lakes. 

When fishing with children it’s best to leave handling the magnet to the adults as children’s fingers and bones aren’t fully developed yet and the magnets can do some serious damage if you’re not careful.

Avoid tangled ropes. Most ropes average anywhere from 50-100 feet so you need to be careful not to get tangled in a portion of your rope when dropping it off of a bridge and find yourself following the magnet into the water. So be aware of your surroundings. 

Weapons or other devices found - it’s quite rare but there is a chance that you could find knives, guns or even explosives while magnet fishing. Obviously, you need to take precautions and contact the proper authorities when you do. It’s a good idea to wear gloves in the event these items are related to a crime. 

The magnet itself  - These are very powerful magnets that can interfere with pacemakers or other electronic devices. Always make sure to wear gloves while handling your magnet because you can even get pinched in between your magnet and another object.

Be sure to follow all signage. If a particular spot says no fishing or private property then find a new spot or at least get permission. Never trespass.

Never leave your unwanted junk behind. We’re magnet fishing to help out the environment so bring it home and once you get a pile of metal bring it to the scrapyard and cash out. Or call a friend to pick up the larger items for you. We have a member on our Facebook page that will do that for us.

If heading out magnet fishing alone which happens infrequently McLean indicates he always leaves his plan with his wife Cara who knows where exactly he will be and what his plan is.

It's also important, depending on the area you live in - not necessarily locally, to be aware of governing law regarding removing archaeological treasures from bodies of water. Some places have laws in effect prohibiting the removal of such items and ownership. In some cases globally you may require permission just to be there.

There is an old saying that states "one man's trash becomes another man's treasure." Depending on the location you choose for your magnet fishing adventure you may find things like fishing lures, scrap metal, shopping carts, bed frames, bikes, ammo casings, railroad ties, big spike nails or horseshoes.

McKersie feels their best find to date was a knife that his partner Candace pulled up on their very first outing. McLean found a rusty old knife he thought was his scariest find.

McLean and wife Cara recently found a high-powered 9 mm handgun which was turned over to the Thessalon OPP as required. If it is determined the gun was not used in a crime they are free to claim it back.

Although sponsorships are not always easy to come by both families have been lucky to have received sponsorship from Muscular Magnetics a company operating out of Pleasant Grove, Utah. This company will be opening up a Canadian market through Amazon in 2021. McKersie has secured two further sponsorships - Toroe Eyewear out of Los Angeles Ca and Canadian Face Armour- a Canadian company operating out of London Ontario.

There are not yet any local clubs for magnet fishing but there are many online resources you can tap into. If you'd like to follow Jeff McKersie and his partner Candace who operate under the title of JC Magnet Fishing and share their experiences on Facebook as well as Instagram (@jcmagnetfishing) and YouTube.

Glenn McLean can also be found sharing his family's experiences on Facebook under the title 705 Magnet Fishing, Instagram (@705_magnet_fishing) or YouTube as well.

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About the Author: Violet Aubertin

Violet Aubertin is a photograher and writer with an interest in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma's great outdoors
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