Magnet fishing – The ultimate guide

Magnet fishing guide

Magnet fishing is an exciting new hobby that is growing fast. Originally started by people attaching magnets to string to find lost keys underwater, magnet fishing is like a cross between fishing and metal detecting. The beauty of magnet fishing is how little gear that you need for it. Essentially you just require a rope and a magnet, although there are a few items I highly recommend you bring as well. This magnet fishing guide will tell you everything you have to know, from what you need to where you need to do it.

Why you should start magnet fishing

Magnet fishing is an great hobby for many reasons. Magnet fishing is exhilarating as you get a thrill when you catch something. The anticipation adds to the excitement when you finally catch a knife or a safe. Typically with a hobby like this, there will be a lot of danger and risk involved. Magnet fishing is unusual because you get all of the excitement without a lot risk. Magnet fishing is suitable for children as long as there is a parent supervising them and is easy to pick up for beginners.

One of the great things about magnet fishing is that it cleans the environment you live in, improving the lives of people and animals alike. It has a positive impact on the world you live in, while also letting you have a great time doing it. Not many hobbies can claim that status. It is almost the opposite of regular fishing. While fishing depletes the stock of fish, Magnet fishing decreases the amount of waste in our waterways. Fans of magnet fishing will all say it is much more enjoyable as well as catches are much more common and more exciting!


The main thing you need for magnet fishing is the magnet itself. Fishing magnets are not like your normal fridge magnets, however. They are extremely powerful and typically made of either ferrite or neodymium. The old adage “Buy well, or buy twice” definitely applies to fishing magnets. Often cheap magnets are weak, brittle and just poor quality in general.

Magnets come in two main varieties, single sided and double sided. In short, single sided magnets are slightly more powerful but when dragging them back to you across the riverbed, they tilt at an angle, reducing how effective they are. They are best suited to fishing vertically, from a bridge for example. Double sided magnets will attract metal no matter their orientation and while slightly less powerful than single sided magnets, they are much more versatile. If you are a beginner, I would recommend you should get a double sided magnet as it will give you more options.

The next thing that you need to decide on is the strength of the magnet. I would say a magnet strength of 500lbs is perfect, especially for someone who is just starting magnet fishing. Remember, this number is measured in ideal conditions with no dirt or water against a flat piece of ½ inch steel, you will not have 500lbs of pull strength when you pull a rusted piece of metal out of the water. If you have a threaded eyebolt to attach rope to, make sure you use Loctite, so it does not gradually loosen itself. Here is a good magnet to start magnet fishing with.


As well as a magnet, rope is the only other thing that is absolutely essential for magnet fishing. The two main types of ropes used are paracord and climbing rope. I recommend climbing rope as it is typically stronger however paracord is also a great option.

When buying rope, you should ensure that it is stronger than the pull force of your magnet. You don’t want your rope snapping and leaving your magnet underwater. For example, if you are buying a 500lb magnet, you should buy a 550lb or stronger rope. If you are fishing from the bank of a canal or river, a 20-30 foot rope should be long enough but I would recommend a 50 foot rope as it will be more versatile and will let you fish from bridges and deep wells.

You are always better off getting a longer rope than you think you will need. You don’t want to drop your magnet and realise that it isn’t quite going to make it. This is a good rope to start with.


While all you need to go magnet fishing is a magnet and a rope, there are a few bits of kit that will make your magnet fishing experience much safer and more enjoyable. As well as sunscreen, insect repellent etc. here are a few bits of kit that will make your magnet fishing experience a little bit easier.


Gloves are highly recommended as you are going to come into contact with rusty metal and potentially dirty water. As tetanus can be caused by handling rusty metal, it is recommended that you buy thick rubber gloves to prevent any metal from piercing your skin. Gloves will also protect your skin from the rope. Pulling and casting a rope all day can be tough on your hands and gloves make it that bit easier.  If you only want to bring one accessory, I recommend bringing gloves.


A knife can be very useful if you get your magnet stuck under the water, as sometimes happens. Instead of losing your rope as well as your magnet, you can cut your rope saving whatever is not underwater. It can also be very useful if your line or your catch gets tangled in a rope, as often happens. You can save hours of untangling if you have a knife and can cut the knotted rope. I recommend a pocket knife with only one blade as they are more sturdy and easier to use.

Grappling hook

If you catch something with your magnet and are having trouble removing it from the water, this is where a grappling hook comes in. You can try and hook the object with the grappling hook, meaning you now have two ropes with which to try and pull your find out of the water. It means you are able to extract larger finds out of the water more easily and there is a smaller risk of simply not being able to remove a find.

Something to hold your finds

When you go magnet fishing, you need to bring a bag/box/bucket to carry all of your finds. I would recommend a bag for your larger finds and a smaller plastic container to hold smaller items.

How to magnet fish

There are a lot of magnet fishing techniques out there. Which technique you use mainly depends on where you are magnet fishing. I will go over a few of the basic techniques that you should know.

If you are fishing in a canal or river, the best technique is to throw the magnet out, then drag it slowly back along the riverbed and repeat. You should swing the magnet back and forth when throwing it, then allow its momentum carry it into the water.

If you are fishing from a pier, dock or bridge, the best technique is to throw the magnet into the water, then walk along, pulling the magnet with you as you go. You should pull on the rope, so the magnet does short hops instead of dragging. This means you will be able to tell if you have caught anything.

Where to go magnet fishing

You can go magnet fishing in almost all bodies of water. There are a few things you should keep in mind when looking for somewhere to go magnet fishing. What you find depends on where you go magnet fishing, for example in a fishing spot you will find knives, fishing lures and maybe even rods. In a picturesque, touristy area, you are more likely to find phones and cameras.

Canals and rivers

Canals and rivers are two of the best places to go magnet fishing. They go through cities and towns and have been used as key transport routes for hundreds of years. This means that a lot of things have been dropped or thrown into them over the years.

You should try and avoid fishing in rivers that have a fast current. Most of the objects under the water will have been pulled downstream by the current so it will be hard to catch anything. It will also be hard to cast your magnet because it will be pulled with the current. You can fish from a bank or a bridge.


Lakes are typically not the best places to go magnet fishing although there are exceptions. Unlike rivers and canals, lakes are not used for transport. This could lead to a lack of finds. With lakes, doing your research is especially important.  If a lake is in a historic area it could yield a lot of finds. Usually the best place to fish from is a pier.


The sea is a great place to go magnet fishing although there are certain hazards you have to be aware of. You shouldn’t fish near a shipwreck as you will almost definitely lose your magnet. Fishing from a boat is ideal, although you can magnet fish from a dock, harbour or most places on the coast really. Just think of the things that have been dropped into the water over the years.


If you see a well, I always recommend you should drop in your magnet. Wells have always been places where people hide things they don’t want to be found. This is one of the reasons I recommend getting a long rope. You don’t know when you will see a spot that you just have to go magnet fishing in. Magnet fishing in a well is very simple, just drop your magnet in and then pull it up.

What to do with your magnet fishing finds

Once you go magnet fishing, you are hopefully going to have a lot of finds. Different people do different things with these finds. If you want to know more about this topic, I go into detail on it here.

Scrap metal

Many people sell the scrap metal they find to a scrap metal dealer. You can build up a pile of scrap metal at home and once it reaches a certain size, take a trip to the scrapyard. This is a good way to make money magnet fishing

Valuable Finds

With your more valuable finds, you should keep them and clean them up. You can use these finds, for example you can clean up any knives you find and use them in the kitchen or when you go magnet fishing. You can also just keep them in your garage. Some people put the finds that they don’t want to keep up on eBay. This is a good way to get rid of finds you don’t want while making a bit of money.

Dangerous finds

You should also know what to do if you find something dangerous. While it is rare, people have found guns and un-exploded bombs. If you find a gun, you should call the relevant authority (usually the non-emergency police number) and ask them what they want you to do with it. While depending on your country/state it might be legal, I recommend calling the police just to be certain. It may have been used in a crime.

If you find an explosive, you should place it down carefully, not removing it from your magnet and call the non-emergency number for the police immediately. You should walk away from the bomb as it has probably been underwater for years and you have no idea how unstable it is. The bomb disposal unit will likely come and detonate the bomb safely.

How to clean your magnet fishing finds

Usually, when you go magnet fishing and catch something, it is rusted, corroded and dirty. In order to make it suitable for use or display, it is usually a good idea to clean it thoroughly. This should also be done for safety reasons as rusty metal can harbour tetanus causing bacteria.

While there are a lot of strong chemical and commercial solutions, these are expensive and damaging to the environment and in my opinion should be tried as a last resort on particularly rusted finds.

Baking Soda

There are plenty of solutions that use household products that you almost definitely already own. One method uses baking soda and water. You mix the two until it forms a thick paste, and then you scrub the rusted parts of your find. You can repeat this until all of the rust is gone.

Oxalic acid

If you find this is not working, it may be time to use something a little stronger. Oxalic acid is widely available in hardware and home stores and removes rust effectively. You need about 3 tablespoons of oxalic acid per gallon of water.

All you need to do is place your finds into a container with the oxalic acid solution and leave them there for a few hours, then rinse them of thoroughly after you take them out. Make sure you wear gloves and goggles and that no oxalic acid touches your skin, as it is toxic.

Is magnet fishing legal?

Is magnet fishing legal in the UK?

In the UK the government has no law banning magnet fishing. Therefore magnet fishing is not illegal in the UK. However the Canal and River trust’s General Canal Byelaws of 1965 section 41, part (d) states “No person unless authorised by the Board in that behalf or otherwise legally entitled so to do shall: Dredge or remove coal or other material from any canal“. This means unless you can get permission from them, it is restricted to go magnet fishing on public canals and rivers in the UK.

This offence carries with it a fine of £25, although there are no recorded cases of this being enforced. There are also no recorded cases of someone being asked to stop magnet fishing. This means that magnet fishing is only allowed in the UK if done with authorisation from the Canal and River trust, or if you do it on private property with the landowner’s permission.

Is magnet fishing legal in the US?

Magnet fishing is legal in 49 of the 50 states. Magnet fishing in South Carolina is illegal. If you are magnet fishing on private property in one of the 49 legal states in the US, make sure you have permission from the landowner.

Is magnet fishing legal in Ireland?

We do not know of any laws that prohibit magnet fishing in Ireland. This means that as far as we know, magnet fishing is legal in Ireland.

Is magnet fishing dangerous?

Magnet fishing is viewed by critics as a dangerous pastime. While I don’t agree, there are definitely a few things that can be done to make it safer. If you want to read more about the risks of magnet fishing and how to avoid them, you can go here.

  • Wear gloves to prevent rusty metal piercing your skin.
  • Do not place your magnet near metal beams or poles.
  • Never put two magnets close together, it is incredibly dangerous and can create sparks.
  • If you find a gun, notify the relevant authorities and treat it as if it is loaded at all times.
  • If you find a bomb, gently place it down and walk away immediately then call the relevant authorities.
  • Never go magnet fishing somewhere that does not have a way to get out of the water if you fall in.
  • Don’t go magnet fishing on private property if you don’t have the landowner’s permission.

Is magnet fishing good for the environment

Magnet fishing is most certainly good for the environment. When you go magnet fishing, you remove metal from the water that has been dumped, hidden and accidentally dropped into it. This metal leaches chemicals into the water, polluting it. This submerged metal can also harm fish and people swimming in the water. By removing it, you are doing a service to the environment and the wildlife and people that live in it.

While cleaning the environment might not be your primary motivation for going magnet fishing, it is definitely a good incentive to keep getting out there and hunting for treasure. You can read more about the impact of magnet fishing on the environment in another article.


This magnet fishing guide should tell you everything you need to know about magnet fishing. Now all you have to do is get out there! Here are a few last things to keep in mind when you go magnet fishing.

  • Always be polite and civil to any people around when you go magnet fishing.
  • Buy well, buy once. If you cheap out on gear, be prepared to replace it if it isn’t fit for the task.
  • Stay safe. Don’t take any unnecessary risks
  • Most importantly, have fun!

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