Magnet Fishing Laws

Magnet Fishing Laws

Why is Magnet Fishing Illegal?

Why is Magnet Fishing Illegal?

Magnet Fishing Laws

The laws regarding magnet fishing are vastly different in every country and region in the world. 

There is one commonality though, no country in the world have any specific laws that regulate magnet fishing directly. The legality of it all is a grey-zone at best.

For any other questions about magnet fishing, this guide has it all.

But now let’s take a look at what the legal situation looks like, and hopefully clear some of this mess up.

Magnet fishing magnet dripping

Why is magnet fishing illegal?

As stated above, magnet fishing usually isn’t illegal. Although your actions while magnet fishing may be, whether that be how and where you fish, or what you find sticking to your magnet

“Why is magnet fishing illegal?”is a question often asked, it usually comes down to other types of laws. These laws vary from place to place, but often have to do with; canal and waterways laws, trespassing laws, excavation laws, property laws or even wreck salvation laws. And then there are certain laws regarding some of your more thrilling finds while magnet fishing, such as guns, knives, safes and even the junk you pick up. 

Magnet Fishing Laws (US)

On a federal level there are no laws that regulate magnet fishing as a whole. It is most often considered a harmless past time if done in public areas in a tidy manner.  

America have different state laws, as well as local regulations, that might limit your magnet fishing hobby, or even banning it entirely in certain locations. Fortunately it is usually semi-legal to magnet fish, South Carolina would be the only exception to my knowledge. 

Let’s take a closer look at what laws you have to consider or look up before magnet fishing.

Magnet fishing laws

Finding A Gun While Magnet Fishing (US)

Every time you pull up a gun out of the water you are in a precarious situation. The firearm you just found might have been used to commit a crime, or simply lost by the owner and reported missing. You do not want your fingerprints to be on that weapon, connecting you to a crime you did not commit. 

On a completely other note, you don’t want to be seen waving around a weapon in public either. People might interpret your intent completely the wrong way and act accordingly.

So what should I do then? You should only handle it with the utmost care and only if you have to, wear gloves and treat it like it is loaded. Then you must contact the appropriate authorities and have them take custody of the gun. If an owner is found, the gun will be returned to them. If no owner is found, it might be returned to you depending on the state you live in among other variables.

Finding A Knife While Magnet Fishing (US)

The laws on knives are more casual than on firearms, most often a knife found while magnet fishing is yours to keep. 

Knives and blades in various forms are regulated in some manners though, depending on the state you live in. Certain blades with certain characteristics, like switchblades, or spring-assisted blades are forbidden in many states. There are sometimes exceptions to the law for hunters, and construction workers and such. Make sure to check up on the local legislation in your state or area.

Where Can I Magnet Fish? (US)

If no other laws prohibit magnet fishing you may proceed as long as you have the landowners permission to fish there. 

So if the water is on private property, make sure you obtain permission from the owner, as well as agree about what you will do with the items found on their property. 

Any object pulled out of the water usually belongs the the landowner, unless any other agreement has been made. 

Check out these magnet fishing spots to find the best locations.

Magnet fishing laws private property

Magnet Fishing is illegal in South Carolina

In South Carolina it is actually prohibited to magnet fish due to the “South Carolina Underwater Antiquities Act of 1991”. The (SCUAA) is sort of an addition to the regular Excavation Laws, created to be effective below water too. 

The problem this law has with magnet fishing, has to do with the impossibility of knowing what we are pulling up from the water. The law states that any artifact that is partially or fully embedded in sediment cannot be taken except by hand. The term artifact in this sense is defined as any object that has been left unclaimed for at least 50 years. So yes, even a rusty old nail can be considered an artifact.

I can not answer as to how often this magnet fishing law is actually enforced, but only tell you that it is strictly forbidden and punishable by a fine.

Magnet fishing Laws (UK)

In the United Kingdom the laws on magnet fishing are a bit clearer. It is unfortunately illegal to magnet fish in most canals and rivers in the UK.

I have not yet ever heard of the law being enforced, thankfully.

As often is though, the law is not directly aimed at magnet fishing, but has to do with excavation and dredging of canals and waterways.

Many people still practice the hobby of magnet fishing, unbothered and usually unaware of this law.

why is magnet fishing illegal

Why Is Magnet Fishing Illegal In The UK?

The Canal & River Trust are the ones managing most of the waterways in the UK. That includes taking care of the safety, public spaces, bridges, and aqueducts in the 2000 miles of waterways they oversee. It is because of public safety, due to the dangerous objects found in the water, as well as the potential littering that may arise, that they have banned magnet fishing in their waterways altogether.

But since they don’t control every little pond, or body of water, there are plenty of spots to go magnet fishing still. It all dates back to 1965 when they went by their former name, British Waterways, that magnet fishing became illegal. 

Their bylaws clearly states that “No person, other than authorized personal, shall dredge or remove any material from the waterways”. They have been very clear in their answer when asked if magnet fishing is allowed. It is not.

Finding A Weapon While Magnet Fishing (UK)

If any firearm or illegal form of weapon is found, it is to be handled with great care. Make certain you do not leave your fingerprints on it, incriminating you to something you are innocent of. Any firearm are to be handled like it is still fully functional and loaded, for everyone’s safety. That means that if you can avoid handling it at all, then please don’t.

Local authorities are to be called to take care of the weapon in a proper manner, as well as check if it has been used in any crime. Hopefully you have helped the police solve a cold case, and given some poor victim closure.

Knives on the other hand are a different matter entirely. They are legal to own, but you are not allowed to carry them in public unless the blade is foldable (lock knives excluded), and shorter than 3 inches long. 

The law also dictates that you are only allowed to carry a knife in public if you have a good reason for it. Those situations are always evaluated individually. However, it is generally allowed to carry a knife for work, for recreational use such as camping, or bringing it home from a store. So, do mind how you transport your findings home.

Where Can I Magnet Fish? (UK)

The law basically permits magnet fishing anywhere on private property, if you have obtained permission from the landowner. It is most often tolerated in public spaces, except waterways under the control of the Canal & River Trusts, if done in a respectful manner. 

It is not required by the law, but it is generally a good idea to agree what should be done with the findings when asking permission. You will generally be responsible for removing the trash and debris you pull up, valuable items however, should perhaps be shared with the landowner upon earlier agreement.

beautiful uk canal

If you are in such luck to find a coin or jewelry that is over 300 years of age while magnet fishing, it is considered an antiquity. Any antiquities found must be turned in to authorities for evaluation. If the item is found to be of historical value it will be kept and displayed at a museum. You do still get a percentage of its estimated value.

Check out these magnet fishing spots to find the best locations.

General Guidelines For Metal Detecting/ Magnet Fishing

Although magnet fishing is not usually regulated by any direct laws, there are legislation dictating a very similar hobby, metal detecting. 

To keep the authorities from banning our favorite hobby altogether due to bad ethics, the laws governing metal detecting should maybe be followed by the magnet fishing enthusiasts as well.

The laws on metal detecting are very similar in the US and the UK, although it can differ a bit from state to state. It is usually legal to do in public and state-owned locations with a few exceptions, due to a location’s archaeological or cultural importance. In other words, you are allowed to do it in a respectful manner.

Most often you are allowed to keep the findings, but you have to report any items that could be of historic importance. It is then decided if it should belong to the state and shown in a museum, or if it is yours to keep. You are almost everywhere guaranteed a percentage of the objects value if it is kept by the state, so there is still an incentive to turn it in. You have to look up what those guidelines or laws are in your local area that you want to go magnet fishing in.

Will Magnet fishing become illegal?

No one can know for sure, but it is likely that there will be regulating laws, that dictate how and where you are allowed to practice this magnet fishing hobby of ours. There are, in my opinion, two primary causes that would tilt the lawmakers toward a law, banning magnet fishing altogether. 

The first reason has to do with some of the more dangerous finds, like this boy who found an old WWII bomb or this couple who found a grenade. There are tons of instances like these, where the authorities are called, and put through the hassle of disarming the explosives just found. One might consider these findings to be of the greater good, making sure no-one in the future are hurt by these. But from the authorities perspective it is only a danger to the citizens, and a hassle to take care of afterwards as it was previously hidden and forgotten in the depths.

The second reasons as to why magnet fishing might become illegal, has to do with how well we take care of our findings. If the rusty debris pulled up from the waterways are just left on the spot it is considered littering. To avoid this from happening we must take our environmental responsibility and take care of our trash. 

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Final Thoughts

I hope this was helpful and cleared some things up for you. The law can be a real jungle and is not easy to navigate. To be certain that you are following the law you must take a look at your local regulations and guidelines yourself. Only you are responsible for your actions. 

Let’s practice our magnet fishing hobby in a respectful way, and keep this favorite past time from becoming illegal. Have fun, and take care of our rivers, lakes and waterways out there.

If you have any information you deem valuable to your fellow magnet fishers about local law, please leave a comment below. 

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