Magnet fishing is a slimy new hobby where people pull guns, bikes and weird stuff out of Milwaukee-area rivers, lakes and lagoons (2023)

Some folks in southern Wisconsin findthemselves facing amagnetic attraction to the region's hidden heavymetal scene.

They have taken up what's known as magnet fishing, a hobby that —measured in terms of social media —is all the rage in Europe but is just now becoming a pastimein the American Midwest.

The hobby consists of attaching a powerful magnet to a rope, then tossing the magnet into a waterway. Once the magnet hits bottom, you drag it until itlocks onto something metal. Then you haul the item to the surface.

Sometimes the result is treasure, most of the time it's junk, and sometimes what you haulto the surface is just plain weird.

"It’s one of those hobbies where it’s kind of silly and it takes a lot of time and it’s kind of stinky and the water’s gross and you have to wear gloves and my wife’s always like, ‘Ugh, where are you going?' "said Jim Walters, a magnet fishing hobbyist from West Bend.

Magnet fishing is a slimy new hobby where people pull guns, bikes and weird stuff out of Milwaukee-area rivers, lakes and lagoons (1)

Walters operates a Facebook page,Magnet Fishing Wisco, for magnet fishing enthusiasts in the region.

"It’s getting some recognition out there a little bit, but really no one knows what it is," Walters said. "It’s kind of a new thing here (in the U.S.)."

He says he decided to try magnet fishing after stumbling onto videos about the hobby on YouTube.

Walters said it was a situation of ending up going down a "YouTube rabbit hole."

"I ended up about five hours later just like, 'wow.' "

He'sbeen magnet fishing for fouror fiveyears now, he said.

"The fun thing about a magnet is it’s just like fishing," Walters said."Something will hit. It will go ‘clink.’ It will give you a feeling on the rope. 'I’ve got something.'

"You can kind of tell by the sound and the feel how big the item is."

The process combines an outdoor activity with suspense, history, a little bit of exercise, sometimes crime and the satisfaction of knowing you're helping clean up the environment by ridding the region's waterways of metal junk.

Just make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

The magnets

The fishing magnets are rated by pounds of lift or pulling force.For magnet fishing, a suggested range is 300 pounds of lift to 1,200 pounds of lift.

(Video) This Pond Holds a Terrible Secret! - Police Called (Magnet Fishing)

That's not how much the magnet weighsbut is an estimate of its "sticking" power.

"It’s a powerful magnet that looks a little like a hockey puck," Walters said.

The higher the lift rating, the more the magnet costs.

A magnet with 1,200 pounds of pulling force is listed for $64.95 on Amazon.

A magnet fishing kit with a 1,200 pound magnet, rope and a carrying case, is $106.79, with $3.95 shipping on eBay.

You don't need the most powerful magnets to get started magnet fishing, Walters said.

"If you’re putting a (magnet fishing) rig together, it’s your own invention," Walters said.

But be careful using the magnets.

"These magnets are pretty strong," Walters said. "You have to watch your fingers and watch the side of the car."

The magnets are labeled with "Caution: Pinching Hazard."

Magnet fishing is a slimy new hobby where people pull guns, bikes and weird stuff out of Milwaukee-area rivers, lakes and lagoons (3)

Walters says he transports the magnets in a large plastic bucket with something such as a towel or a piece of foam in it to block the force of the magnet from coming in contact with a vehicle's metal.

You also have to be careful to keep the magnet from latchingonto a metal bridge or pier support. If that happens, it's a battle to retrieve the magnet.(In one YouTube video, magnet fishermen had to hook their rope to a trailer hitch on their car and then used the car to pull the magnet free.)

"It takes a little practice to make sure the current doesn’t take your magnet in a direction you don’t want it to," said Trisha Timm, a magnet fishing hobbyist who lives in Saukville.

For Timm and her family, magnet fishing is an extension of their outdoor pursuits. The family has a Facebook page dedicated to outdoor activities, including magnet fishing videos.

"We’re fishermen also and we get (our lines) caught on this stuff all the time," Timm said of underwater metal junk."The fact that we can get itout for not only ourselves but for other fishermen as well, that’s one of the biggest things.”

She gets a lot of curious questions while out magnet fishing.

"A lot of people walking by are so interested," she said."They say, 'what are you guys doing?' And we say, 'magnet fishing.'"

So far the Timm family has pulled a lot of metal garbage out of area waterways, including a 75-pound unidentified hunk of metal pulled from the Milwaukee River near Grafton.

"We pulled a bike out of the water," Timm said. "It wasn’t in there for long.

"There was still air in the tires."

The gear

Walters has devised a uniform of sorts that he wears when magnet fishing. "It’s a pretty obnoxious outfit," he said.

Here's what it consists of:

Waders, for obvious reasons. "You're going to get wet," Walters said.

Protective gear. "I always have something on my shins and my ankles," Walters said. "You really never know" what is under the water or whether it couldpoke or stick you as you toss and retrieve your magnets.

Gloves. He uses a type of fishing glove.

Safety glasses and a hat.

"Who knows what’s in there?" Walters added. "I’ve heard of guys west of here finding what were traveling meth labs. They found a couple of those that were dumped in rivers toward the LaCrosse area.Awful. Just awful."

The payoff

Walters was magnet fishing in the northern portions of the Milwaukee River.

He tossed a magnet out into the middle of the river.

"I felt something and it felt pretty solid. Rectangular shape... really heavy," he said.

He hauled it out of the river and what he had was a heavy,muck-encased rectangular piece of cast iron. "I thought, 'this is cool,'" he said.

OK. How do you clean it up?

Magnet fishing is a slimy new hobby where people pull guns, bikes and weird stuff out of Milwaukee-area rivers, lakes and lagoons (4)

"I got on the YouTube again andrealized I had to get a kiddie pool and four bottles of Coca-Cola and let this thing sit for two weeks in my garage," Walters said."It was submerged in this disgusting, surgary, nasty, murky mess for two weeks."

The cola bath and some scrubbing resulted in the removal of the muck, allowing Walters to identify it as a bridge plaque made by theLassig Bridge and Steel Co., in Chicago. It was stamped with a date from 1900.

"I cleaned it up and lacquered it and it looked pretty slick," Walters said. It ended up sitting in his garage.

One day, he had a rummage sale. The sign was still sitting in the garagebut was off to the side, away from the rummage merchandise that was for sale.

A guy at the rummage sale spotted the sign.

"It ended up he was an architectural antique dealer from Chicago," Walters said. "He peeled off $500 bucks right there ..." for the bridge plaque."He already had a buyer in mind."

Somebody has to clean all this stuff up

Europe has had issues with magnet fisherman pulling junk up out of rivers and lakes and then leavingbig piles of useless waste metal and muck along the shoreline.

Walters and Timm say that is unacceptable to them and that it defeats the purpose of cleaning up the waterways, which ispart of the mission of magnet fishing.

"That’s kind of the big thing," Walters said. "You’re cleaning up the metal trash that has been sitting" sometimes for generations, at the bottom of rivers and lakes.

All the junk they pull up to the surface, "We’re just scrapping it and getting it out of the water," Timm said. "It will go to the scrapyard and it will be disposed of correctly."

"You’re doing what you can for the planet," she added. "That’s the most important thing."

Walters and Timm say they go to great effort to make sure their hobby doesn't run afoul of the law.

"I’ve called and I’ve talked to wardens and law enforcement as well," Walters said."They get a kick out of it for the most part, as long as you’re not trespassing."

There are ample opportunities for magnet fishing in the state.

"There’s a lot of public access to water in Wisconsin," Walters said.

With magnet fishing, there is no license required.

The state Department of Natural Resources has no problem with magnet fishing.

"We think it's absolutely wonderful that people want to go out and help clean up our waterways and remove garbage or debris, junk,"said Robert Rosenberger, deputy bureau director for the DNR waterways program. "Getting that out of ariver is great."

In the meantime, Walters says he will keep on magnet fishing.

"When I find a new hobby, I go a little nuts," he said.

What's in the water

Walters and Timm tendto find all sorts of things when they areout magnet fishing. Some of what they find has become fairly routine, but some of it isn't.

Upper torso of a mannequin. "Strangest thing I’ve ever found. It hada steel rod running through the center of it and the magnet locked onto that," Walters said."As I’m bringing it up, I’m seeing a torso and it was definitely a 'What in the heck just happened?' moment because you’re seeing this and it doesn't make sense. You’re seeing this upper torso coming out of the water."

Gumballs. "I found a gumball machine that someone had stolen and chucked in the river," Walters said. "The gumballs were still intact."

Japanese paratrooper. "I pulled up this little Japanese WWII soldier figurine," Walters said. "It was a Japanese paratrooper. 3½ inches tall."

Guns. Walters has pulled a couple of handguns out of area waterways. Both were turned over to law enforcement and the guns had not been reported missing or stolen. "How did it end up here?" Walters said. "Was it grandma who didn’t like grandpa’s gun and tossed it into the river?"

An ironing trivet.A trivet is a piece of metalon which hot dishes or other hot things are placed. The trivet from the river was shaped like an iron for ironing clothing, Timm said.Did she know what it was when she pulled it up? "Absolutely no clue," she said.

Fishing gear. Just about anything a fisherman would drop in the water, Walters has pulled up to the surface. That includes knives, pliers, hooksand Leatherman multitools.

Railroad spikes. Especially around railroad bridges, the spikes that are used to hold the rails in place are plentiful in waterways, Walters said. He estimates he has fished about 400 railroad spikes out of waterways in southern Wisconsin.

Bicycles.Lots of them. "I’ve pulled a lot of bikes out of(the water)," Walters said. "I just pulled one up Tuesday."Some are fairly new, some are really old. Chances are, they are crusted with unimaginable muck. “You have to be ready for that big, nasty bicycle,” Walters said.

Anything else of note?

"I found an old toolbox that was completely full of Craftsman tools that were in beautiful condition," Walters said.

Lainey Seyler of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Contact Joe Taschler at (414) 224-2554or jtaschler@gannett.com. Followhimon Twitter at @JoeTaschler orFacebook atfacebook.com/joe.taschler.1.

FAQs

What is the point of magnet fishing? ›

Magnet fishing uses a strong magnet to try and grab ferrous metal objects that are hidden or lost underwater. If you want to try grabbing something lost on the bottom of a lake, pond, or river, a magnet on a rope might do the trick.

Is magnet fishing a real thing? ›

Today, magnet fishing hobbyists use rope and mega-strong magnets to pull trash, firearms, bicycles and even Civil War artifacts from their local waterways. But in Europe, authorities aren't so fond of magnet fishing.

Is magnet fishing a hobby? ›

They are among many who picked up the hobby during the pandemic. A World War I-era warhead and a dead blacktip shark attached to a metal hook are just some of the things magnet fishers have retrieved around the U.S. since the hobby spiked in popularity following the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.

Is magnet fishing legal in WI? ›

There are ample opportunities for magnet fishing in the state. "There's a lot of public access to water in Wisconsin," Walters said. With magnet fishing, there is no license required. The state Department of Natural Resources has no problem with magnet fishing.

Why do you need gloves for magnet fishing? ›

Whether you're magnet fishing or metal detecting, you need a good pair of gloves to protect your hands. These cut-resistant gloves from Brute Magnetics offer protection from rope burns, glass, and rusty or sharp metal objects.

How strong of a magnet do you need for magnet fishing? ›

Pulling force of at least 500lbs (226kg)

If you're just starting out, start with a 500lbs capable magnet. This will satisfy the majority of hauls without feeling like you're missing out. 500lbs is still a very strong magnet. If you want to get any magnet fishing job done, then go with a 800lbs (362kg).

Is magnet fishing harmful? ›

Neodymium magnets are powerful and can interfere with pacemakers, posing a health risk; they can also damage other electronic devices. Fingers can get crushed between the magnet and a piece of metal, potentially causing serious bodily harm. Tetanus can also be a risk for those without an up-to-date tetanus vaccine.

Can a magnet attract humans? ›

Humans are weakly diamagnetic. Rather than being attracted by a magnetic field we would tend to repel the lines of force.

How much does it cost to magnet fish? ›

As I learned, you only need a few important pieces of gear, including a magnet, rope, gloves, carabiner, and storage container. Some starter kits cost as little as $20 and can be purchased right from Amazon, or one of several dedicated magnet fishing websites run by enthusiasts like myself.

Do I need a Licence for magnet fishing? ›

For our friends in the USA, there are currently no laws and restrictions that we know of that bans magnet fishing.

Is gold attracted to a magnet? ›

Pure gold on its own cannot stick to a magnet. However, if you have an alloy of gold, then it could stick to a magnet. An example of a gold alloy that may stick to a magnet is gold with over 20% of its atoms replaced by iron. In very cold temperatures this alloy of gold may magnetize all on its own.

What equipment do I need for magnet fishing? ›

Magnet fishing requires very little equipment, in fact you only need a magnet, eyebolt and rope to get started. However, we do recommend a pair of water and cut resistant gloves for handling your findings.

Is there a magnet you can turn on and off? ›

It is called electro-permanent magnet. Electrically switched on and off permanent magnets, are conveniently turned on and off as the user requires.

How much does it cost to start magnet fishing? ›

For about $75 you can get a complete magnet fishing kit from them that includes a carrying case, rope, carabiner and thread loc. In case you're wondering, thread loc just helps keep the eye bolt screwed in and prevents the magnet from becoming loose while you're using it.

Which is the best for magnet fishing? ›

Neodymium magnets are the strongest type of magnet available, making them ideal for retrieving or “fishing” metal objects from lakes, rivers, and streams.

Why do people put magnets under their skin? ›

Though magnetic implants can be used to pick up small metal objects, the main purpose of getting an implant is in order to gain sensory perception of magnetic fields. After a magnet is implanted underneath the epidermal layer of the skin, nerves grow around the magnet as the skin heals.

Do magnets work when wet? ›

Magnets work great underwater. You can even get special magnets, called retrieving magnets, to pick up objects containing iron that have fallen into lakes or wells. This can be a lifesaver if your keys fall into a tank of sharks or alligators.

Do magnets stop working when wet? ›

While magnets are typically coated with nickel, zinc or epoxy to protect them against rust and corrosion from moisture they are not waterproof. Neodymium magnets will work wet or submerged for a short period.

How much power can a magnet produce? ›

In no-load conditions, a permanent magnet generator can generate voltages from 69.5 to 223.7 V and frequencies range from 33.5 to 50.9 V at rotational speeds of 2000 to 3000 rpm.

What is the strongest natural magnet? ›

A magnet made of neodymium, iron and boron is ridiculously strong (“the strongest magnet on earth,” in fact, according to Lewis).

Which is the strongest magnet currently know? ›

The strongest permanent magnets are neodymium (Nd) magnets. They are made from an alloy of neodymium, boron and iron to form Nd2Fe14B structure. Neodymium is a rare earth element.

Why is magnet harmful to the body? ›

The body is alive with electrical activity in the nerves and in the transport of ions between cells, and there can be measurable effects on the body when it is in the presence of a magnetic field. However, even strong magnetic fields don't appear to cause any adverse effects on health in the long term.

Is magnet harmful to the body? ›

Although they have been used in various diagnostic devices in the health sector and as therapeutic tools, magnets are potentially harmful to the body and pose increased risk of accident.

What happens if someone eats a magnet? ›

The magnetic objects are forced together in the intestines or bowels, squeezing the tissue so that the blood supply is cut off. Ingesting more than one can be life-threatening and cause significant damage within hours. Now, England's top children's doctor wants them banned altogether to prevent further incidents.

What do magnets do to the brain? ›

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a technique that can help to improve the communication between brain cells and this technique improves depression in many people who do not get better with antidepressant medication.

Do magnets affect blood? ›

Fortunately, the iron in our blood isn't attracted to magnets. Iron is almost everywhere in our body but in tiny quantities. The amount of iron in an adult's body put together is 3.5g. The iron contained in blood only is just 2g.

Is there anything in the human body that is magnetic? ›

The heart and the brain are well known as organs that generate ion cur- rents. The current from the heart mus- cle, when measured with electrodes on the skin, produces the electrocardio- gram (ECG); the same current produces a magnetic field around the torso which, when measured, is called a magnetocar- diogram (MCG).

Where is the best places to go magnet fishing? ›

Canals are the most popular places to Magnet Fish and for good reason. Canals are tried and tested and have a really good hit rate for people looking to find lots of items.

Who makes the strongest fishing magnet? ›

Wildebeest 4250 lb | The World's Strongest Double-Sided Fishing Magnet – Brute Magnetics.

What do you do with metal from magnet fishing? ›

Some examples include melting most of the metal objects and reshaping it to become something new and useful such as pieces to build a new bike! Remember that everyone is different, and so different objects will excite different people.
...
Common finds:
  1. Coins.
  2. Cash boxes.
  3. Knives.
  4. Guns.
  5. Dog tags.
  6. Nails.
  7. Tools.
  8. Fishing Hooks.

Do magnets attract fish? ›

Other aquatic creatures might exhibit biomagnetism, so fish may have evolved to detect it. However, there's no proof that magnetic hooks could attract fish.

What are the 7 magnets? ›

Magnet NameProperty
Ceramic or ferrite magnetsA type of permanent magnet made using ceramics.
Temporary magnetsThey are magnetized in the presence of an external magnetic field.
ElectromagnetsMade by running an electrical current through a coil with a metal core.
4 more rows

What are 3 minerals that are attracted to a magnet? ›

Magnetite (strongly) Maghemite (strongly) Manganbabingtonite (very weak)

Can a magnet Touch gold? ›

The Magnet Test

Gold is not magnetic, so there should not be any attraction to magnets. If there is, you most likely don't have real gold. However, some of the base metals that can be mixed with gold are also non-magnetic so you can get a false read.

How do you get power from a magnet? ›

Moving a magnet around a coil of wire, or moving a coil of wire around a magnet, pushes the electrons in the wire and creates an electrical current. Electricity generators essentially convert kinetic energy (the energy of motion) into electrical energy.

What household items are magnetic? ›

Paper clips, scissors, screws, nuts, and bolts are just a few common everyday objects that are magnetic. A magnet will not attract paper, rubber, wood, or plastic.

What are the 3 rules of magnets? ›

Three Right Hand Rules of Electromagnetism
  • Rule #1 – Oersted's Law. Our story begins with Oersted's Demonstration, which was performed for the first time during a lecture in 1821. ...
  • Rule #2 – The Lorentz Force. ...
  • Rule #3 – The Solenoid Rule. ...
  • Left Hand Rule.
13 Apr 2018

Can you turn a magnet off? ›

Turning off a permanent magnet is the demagnetization process of it. Heating the magnet to high temperatures or generating a magnetic field with an alternating current in the vicinity of the magnet are two ways to demagnetize it (assuming you want to do so).

Can magnets damage phones? ›

But don't worry, we can put you at ease and say that due to the way storage devices have developed, magnets will not affect your smartphone. Newer devices contain solid-state drives which don't use magnetism to store data, so they are completely safe from magnetic interference.

How hard is it to drill a magnet? ›

First of all, magnets are made of a very fragile material that is brittle and easily breakable. As a result, the magnet is very prone to shattering when the surface is interrupted by a powerful electric drill. In doing this, it is extremely difficult to come out with a magnet that is still in one piece.

Is a double sided magnet better for magnet fishing? ›

The double sided magnets are great for dragging and are helpful because of how they are designed. You will have at least one side facing the bottom so it will grab onto stuff. They also are great because you have two sides instead of only one to attract items.

What's the point of magnet fishing? ›

Magnet fishing uses a strong magnet to try and grab ferrous metal objects that are hidden or lost underwater. If you want to try grabbing something lost on the bottom of a lake, pond, or river, a magnet on a rope might do the trick.

What are the rules for magnet fishing? ›

Magnet fishing in the tidal Thames is not allowed -- even with a Foreshore Permit. This is because of potential hazards to navigation, the environment and the safety of individuals involved and other river users.

What are the benefits of magnet fishing? ›

You don't need to pay for a license or registration either. Meaning, it's a cheap way to pitch in and make the world a better, safer place to live. Magnet fishing is also a lot safer than other underwater clean-ups as it doesn't involve divers, machinery, or other dangerous equipment.

What can you pick up magnet fishing? ›

What Can I Catch? As you can imagine, there are endless things you could catch while magnet fishing. Anything and everything that contains iron is within your reach, from nuts and bolts to signposts, bicycles, tools, and even the angling classic – an old boot.

How does the magnetic fishing game work? ›

Magnetic Fishing Activity

Each has a pole dangling a magnet above the letters. Several seconds and no fish have been caught. So they take turns hooking a fish or letter onto the end of the other's line.

Is magnet fishing easy? ›

Whether this becomes something you do on weekends or it becomes a serious hobby, like it did for me, it really is easy and affordable to get started in magnet fishing. As I learned, you only need a few important pieces of gear, including a magnet, rope, gloves, carabiner, and storage container.

What kind of magnet do I need for magnet fishing? ›

Neodymium magnets are the strongest type of magnet available, making them ideal for retrieving or “fishing” metal objects from lakes, rivers, and streams. We offer neodymium magnets in a wide variety of styles and strengths to meet the needs of magnet fishing hobbyists, from beginner to expert.

What equipment do you need for magnet fishing? ›

Magnet fishing requires very little equipment, in fact you only need a magnet, eyebolt and rope to get started. However, we do recommend a pair of water and cut resistant gloves for handling your findings.

What happens when you put a magnet in salt water? ›

Saltwater — whether the magnet is fully immersed or simply operating in saltwater air — can cause even more serious corrosive damage that can actually weaken a magnet's strength. If you use certain types of magnets within saltwater or a high-moisture environment, you'll likely have to replace them on a regular basis.

How do you recharge a magnet? ›

You remagnetize a magnet by bringing it into contact with a strong magnet. So, if you have a weakened magnet, you must carefully bring it to contact with a strong neodymium magnet. This will make your weakened magnet regain its magnetic force. That was it.

What are the rules of magnets? ›

Like poles (north-north; south-south) will repel each other. Unlike poles (north-south) will attract each other.

What foods attract magnets? ›

Some examples of food with iron include dark green vegetables (like spinach), meats (especially red meat), and fortified cereals. Iron is also one of the three magnetic metals (other two being nickel and cobalt). That means it is attracted to a magnet.

What animals are attracted to magnets? ›

Scientists show that dolphins—like birds, bees, and many other animals—are attuned to magnetic fields. An astonishing variety of animals can sense the Earth's magnetic field—the list includes birds, salmon, frogs, sea turtles, honeybees, salamanders, lobsters, and rodents. You can add dolphins, too.

Does gold stick to magnets? ›

What to do: Hold the magnet up to the gold. If it's real gold it will not stick to the magnet. (Fun fact: Real gold is not magnetic.) Fake gold, on the other hand, will stick to the magnet.

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