How magnet fishing for metal is becoming a popular pastime


Benson (left) and Paine retrieving an electric scooter from the water at Broadway Pier in Baltimore recently. Photos: Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun/TNS

Jack Benson and Will Paine cast their lines into Baltimore’s harbour together on the evening of Jan 26 to wrestle out the first big catch of the night – an electric scooter.

With Paine using a powerful magnet attached to a rope and Benson using an US$8 (RM34.45) grappling hook, they hauled the barnacle-encrusted scooter onto Broadway Pier in Fells Point in Southeast Baltimore, the United States. Already, the night was looking to be a success.

Their latest outdoor hobby, magnet fishing, has gained traction in Baltimore, with busy weekly meetups bringing in magnet anglers from across the area.

The premise is simple: The hobbyists cast the powerful magnets into city waters and haul out whatever metal objects they latch onto. With the 360° magnet, they can directly reel back in smaller objects, but larger objects require the anglers to use a metal grappling hook for support.

The haul mostly includes bits of fences, chairs and assorted pieces of scrap metal. Finding mostly trash, the group of magnetic anglers said their hobby cleans up the harbour while making fascinating discoveries about what sits under the murky waters.

“You don’t know what you’ll find,” said Evan Woodard, an amateur historian who hosts the weekly meetups in Fells Point. “It’s good, wholesome, clean fun.”

Woodard, a Baltimore resident who is known for scavenging the woods and historical sites for relics of the past, picked up magnet fishing last December. Most of the people at that Thursday’s meetup had discovered the hobby through Woodard, whose popular Instagram and YouTube pages chronicle his finds.

Nick Fisch met Woodard through Instagram two years ago. They became accomplices in hunting through the woods for antique bottles and other lost treasure, and have since started magnet fishing together. Combined, they’ve pulled in over a dozen electric scooters from the harbour.

Usually, Woodard calls the scooter manufacturer to pick them up. The rest of the haul usually ends up either in the trash, recycled or sold for scrap.

(From left) Woodard providing the line and magnet for Ali von Paris and Ally Mills to try magnet fishing at Broadway Pier. (From left) Woodard providing the line and magnet for Ali von Paris and Ally Mills to try magnet fishing at Broadway Pier.

“At the end of the day, we’re cleaning stuff, and you get to have fun finding out what you’re getting,” Fisch said.

Their weekly meetups started generating more interest after Woodard posted a video of Fisch reeling in a handgun from the harbour one day in early January. They called the Baltimore Police, who retrieved the firearm. After Woodard posted the short video online, attendance exploded.

“We’ve quadrupled in size in one week,” Fisch said at Max’s Taphouse following their weekly meet Jan 19.

Woodard and Fisch, who have experience with firearms, don’t think it’s likely their catch will solve any crimes.

“It’s kind of like, we’ve done all of this stuff, but this is what we’re known for?” Woodard said. “It’s been so insane; I feel like people care more since we found the gun.”

The meetup group has found a sense of community finding metal objects together. Several discovered the pastime through related hobbies, like metal detecting, antique bottle hunting or privy digging, salvaging the contents of defunct outhouses.

Paine, a Gwynn Oak resident, started magnet fishing just within the past few weeks. A metal detector enthusiast, he came across videos of magnet fishers from around the world on YouTube, through which he also met Woodard.

“I watch people who travel across the country to do it,” he said.

Inspired by Woodard and the other online magnet fishing aficionados, Paine decided to purchase a kit earlier this year. The kit included a magnet with a 3,500lb (1587.5kg) pull force, protective gloves, a rope and a grappling hook.

During one of his first magnet fishing ventures, he reeled in a full shopping cart out of the Inner Harbor.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Paine said. “Everyone’s really nice, just having fun together.” – The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service

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