Magnet fishermen are helping clean up waterways, and also finding previously sunken historical artifacts, like waterlogged 100-year-old rifles, in the process.
Magnet fishing involves using powerful magnets to retrieve objects from rivers and other waterways. Some do it to clean up pollution, while others do it because they enjoy treasure hunting.
“I think it’s the only way of clearing pollution and having fun at the same time,” Melvyn Derouen, owner of Maison de la Detection, explained. “It’s not much effort, it’s funny to drag up unusual items. Fisherman say, I caught a big pike, I caught a big carp. But for magnet fisherman it’s, I brought back a fridge or a scooter.”
Some magnets are powerful enough to lift objects up to 1,700 lbs. Fishermen often “catch” things like bikes, padlocks, and signs, but sometimes they also pull up weapons of dangerous bomb fragments. In May 2019, a magnet fisherman was burned by mustard gas that came out of a bomb he retrieved from a river near Belgium.
Despite the risks, magnet fishing is becoming increasingly popular. One shop owner in Paris says he’s sold 2,500 magnets in 2019, whereas in the past he rarely sold even 100 a year.