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Magnet fishing an attractive summertime activity

It's the one time you'll come back from a fishing trip with more hooks than you had before.

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The magnet John Sievers got at a hardware store, capable of lifting up to 150 lbs. (contributed by John Sievers)

"Magnet fishing" can be an a-lure-ing summer pursuit — especially if, like me, you aren’t too keen on threading a wriggling worm onto a hook. I wanted to give my daughters, Eleanor (13) and Abigail (11), a fishing experience, and I figured we could give magnet fishing a try. It’s accomplished by tossing a powerful magnet tied to a rope into water and hoping it will attract some ferrous (read: iron-laden) metal.

By taking the girls magnet fishing, I thought we’d still get the joys of observing wildlife and being in nature, but we might actually manage to leave the water we visited a little cleaner than when we started. It had the added benefit of not requiring a fishing license.

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Abigail Sievers, 11, hold up the magnet used to "fish" for metal objects (contributed by John Sievers)

The hobby of magnet fishing is rumored to have been started by boaters, who may have dropped a set of keys into the water. Legend has it that the solution of pulling these lost keys out of the water with a magnet on a string gave birth to the magnet fishing phenomenon.

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While I found a wide variety of magnet fishing kits online, some for around $20, I opted to buy a powerful magnet from a local hardware store. We already had the rope on hand, so it didn’t take long to get set up. The magnet I purchased was capable of lifting 150 pounds. Some more serious magnet-fishing kits come with neodymium magnets able to lift 700 pounds.

Besides a strong magnet and rope, serious magnet fishers also recommend bringing a 5-gallon bucket (to fill with found metal), gloves (to avoid cuts from sharp objects), and a grappling hook (in case you find something your magnet can’t handle because it’s awkwardly shaped or heavy).

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Abigail and Eleanor Sievers cast off at Chester Wood Park's boat area, June 2021 (photographed by John Sievers)

The best places for magnet fishing are near piers, bridges, or other locations with lots of human traffic. We decided to try out the pier and bridges on the east side of Silver Lake. We enjoyed the beautiful stone bridges, but left almost empty-handed after about a half-hour. On my last cast, I reeled in a twist tie. It was enough to give the girls and I hope that another location would yield some treasures.

For our next stop, we hit the Bear Creek Reservoir in Chester Woods Park. Eleanor and Abigail had a great time hefting the magnet out into the water from the docks near the boat ramp, and almost immediately, we had better luck. Some of our magnet casts brought up copious water weeds, but we also managed to score some fishing hooks, bottle caps, random washers, and even a few fun lures and fishing weights.

Every time we cast the magnet out into the water, the moment of expectation before we flipped the magnet over was a rush. Had we managed to attract something recognizable?

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Water weeds are a fact of life when magnet-fishing (photographed by John Sievers)

With just about 20 casts, the girls and I were each able to catch something fun. While we didn’t pull up anything huge, we also got to enjoy the dragonflies buzzing over the reservoir and hiking past the pirate ship playground and the giant human-sized Lincoln Logs there.

While our fishing trip concluded without us catching a single fish, we had a great time and had also possibly saved a few bare feet from being stabbed by lost fishing hooks. It felt good to leave the water cleaner than we had found it. And this was one fishing trip where we returned home with more hooks than we’d left with.

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The Sievers' collection of magnet fishing finds (photographed by John Sievers)

Here's what the girls had to say about the experience.

Eleanor (13)

On our magnetic fishing adventure, I caught two treasures: a slightly rusty spring, and a red fishing hook that was immediately christened the “fancy hook” due to its variance in color. I’ve never been a big fishing person, so this was an interesting way to have the same experience minus the skewered fish.

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One part of the experience that I hadn’t anticipated was our interactions with fellow adventurers. We met a trio of kayakers who politely asked what we were up to before going about their day. We ran into a father and son who were fishing in the Bear Creek Reservoir. As we were casting our magnet, the father kept up a very discreet conversation with his son consisting of comments such as “That’s quite a big rope they’ve got there,” “I guess they’re magnet fishing,” and my personal favorite, “They do them, we do us.”

Abigail (11)

During our adventure, we came upon some wildlife. We encountered a friendly family of ducklings catching some lunch with their mom, and we saw a beautiful blue heron taking off into the sky. Since this was our first time magnet fishing, and we weren’t going to well-known magnet fishing spots, we got a small but worthy haul of goods. I caught a few mini washers. I also attracted a fish hook, which was by far my best catch.

But all in all, with the animals, the walk, and sense of adventure, our trip was a success. I would definitely suggest magnet fishing.

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