The hidden dangers of magnet fishing

Steven Matts and Kerry Newman
Image caption Steven Matts and Kerry Newman with two mortar shells, a knife and an previous railway lantern

Magnet fishing – the place folks hunt for metallic submerged in canals and rivers – is growing in recognition, with hundreds importing movies of their finds on YouTube. But there are stark warnings to be heard over this probably harmful passion.

“You do look at it afterwards and think, ‘that could have gone off’,” mentioned Nigel Lamford.

When he found a suspected grenade in July, the street was closed for six hours whereas the police and bomb squad handled it.

This was not the primary time one of his discoveries had shattered the peace of the canal-side with wailing sires and flashing blue lights. Nor was the grenade his first – he has pulled out a minimum of one different from Northamptonshire’s waters, along with 100 bullets and 13 weapons.

“When you pull something up like a grenade you get an adrenaline rush,” he mentioned. “I make sure people stand away.”

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Media captionMagnet fishing: England rugby star James Haskell’s uncommon passion

Incidents like this are actually a frequent consequence of magnet fishing, which includes dangling a magnet connected to a rope into water to find metallic finds. It has discovered recognition on social media, specifically, YouTube, the place there are greater than 500,000 outcomes referring to the passion.

Enthusiasts level to 2 components for its enchantment. Firstly, not like conventional angling, you not often go house empty-handed. Secondly, there may be the thriller of the unknown. Both of these seem to outweigh the dangers.

Grenades, just like the one present in July in Lancashire for instance, are often turned up. Some catches will be much more alarming – in March, magnet fishers within the River Itchen at Woodmill in Southampton discovered the physique of a handcuffed man.

Yet extra critically, a father and son died whereas magnet fishing in 2018, prompting a warning from the coroner in regards to the “inherent dangers” of the pastime. Martin Andrews, 43, and Jack, 19, had been utilizing a really robust magnet on a rope to “catch” items of metallic within the Huddersfield Canal. Their inquest heard their our bodies had been founding “vertically submerged” and their deaths declared as misadventure.

Image caption Two mortar shells present in a canal by magnet fisher Steven Matts
Image caption Magnet fishers say they’re extra more likely to return house with a discover than conventional anglers

For many magnet fishers nevertheless, the fun of the catch is simply too tempting to disregard.

“I enjoy the unknown. You just never know what’s on the end of your rope – it could be junk, weapons, bikes or old tools,” mentioned Gareth Bryer, who has greater than 61,000 subscribers to his magnet fishing YouTube channel, Drasticg.

He thinks England’s canals appear to be a dumping floor for the felony underworld, providing up discarded weapons, knives and different illicit trappings. His haul has included jewelry and watches from canals within the Greater Manchester space in addition to weapons, knifes, motorbikes [and] safes from robberies.

Steven Matts mentioned he has handed in 21 knives to police since he began magnet fishing in Leicestershire’s canals nearly a 12 months in the past. He mentioned he had additionally discovered a quantity of luggage weighed down with bricks, containing garments, hats and gloves.

“From the volume of knives and clearly stolen items we find I do believe the canal is used a dumping ground for… criminal activity,” he mentioned. “It is an easily accessible way for them to get rid of evidence.”

Northamptonshire Police mentioned that though there are not any legal guidelines in opposition to magnet fishing, they’d ask fishers to train “due care” when dealing with objects, akin to unexploded World War Two bombs.

“[They] can be extremely dangerous, as well as resource-intensive for our response officers.”

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Image copyright The New Magneterz
Image caption An auctioneer informed Steven Matts this signal dated from between 1905 and 1908

Neither is it unlawful to go magnet fishing on land the place hobbyists have sought permission.

But the Canal & River Trust, which owns most of the UK’s canals, has bylaws prohibiting folks from eradicating materials from the canal and rivers it owns.

While it not often enforces these, it disapproves of magnet fishing, pointing to “rusty and sharp” metallic discarded on the towpath and different dangers. It says it prefers folks to rearrange organised occasions.

“That way we know who’s involved, can ensure there are proper safety measures in place to protect those taking part and can make sure that everything is properly cleaned up afterwards by the organisers,” mentioned Dan Whyment, from the belief.

Image copyright Nigel Lamford
Image caption Nigel Lamford has had a number of visits by the police warning him to cease magnet fishing as a result of of the dangers of dwell explosives however says he is not going to hand over his passion
Image copyright Canal & River Trust
Image caption Boat homeowners have lengthy used magnets connected to rope to retrieve misplaced keys, glasses or different objects which fell overboard

Some argue, nevertheless, that magnet fishers are literally benefiting the setting – and there could also be some fact on this.

“Any sport or activity that promotes removal of metal from waterbeds is a good thing,” mentioned Dr Andrew Pledger, an ecologist on the University of Loughborough.

“The metallic could degrade over time. There could also be paint that accommodates toxins and lead which can be leaking undesirable substances into the water.

“Obviously they must be disposed of accurately.”

He believes a code of observe might assist make magnet fishing protected.

Currently the Environment Agency doesn’t regulate magnet fishing, however given its growing recognition, the authorities could nicely discover themselves having to dip a toe into murky waters.

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