Magnet fishing or magnetic fishing is a popular hobby taken up by anglers and environmentalists across the globe. Think of it as looking for ferric treasure under the sea using a powerful magnet held with a rope over the common fisherman’s pole.
There are, nonetheless, certain rules and regulations in place when looking for more than just a catch undersea. This is why fishermen and women are advised to look into whether magnet fishing is legal in their state and nation or not.
However, magnet fishing is seen as more than just a hobby by various regulatory bodies and Waterways. The practice has been under scrutiny in some states and nations, whereas it’s considered completely legal in others.
Is magnet fishing legal where you live? Read on to find out!
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Magnet Fishing Laws in the US and UK
To put it simply, magnet fishing is controversial but not necessarily illegal. The hobby has been picked up by people who are either looking for treasure or being good Samaritans and cleaning up water bodies.
However, the legal nature of magnet fishing is a point of contention and has to be understood before you go off buying a neodymium magnet.
Magnet fishing is the equivalent of using a metal detector on land to look for hidden or buried treasure.
While there’s nothing illegal about looking for items left or discarded by others and claiming them as your own (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), there are rules, trespassing laws, evidence and police assistance, derangement and wildlife concerns, and artifact claims.
1. Trespassing Laws
Trespassing laws are universally applied and aren’t only affiliated with magnet fishing. If you go off on private property or fish in property owned by an organization wearing fishing sunglasses, not only will you be held liable for trespassing onto their property, but you’ll also be made to hand over anything you’ve found.
According to magnet fishing laws in the United States and the United Kingdom (as well as other countries), a magnet fisher is required to take written consent from the owners of a property where they’re fishing beforehand.
Unlike fishing laws with crankbait rods, magnet fishers don’t require a permit to use a magnet and hold it above water with a rope (except in Hamburg) – but they might be required to display their findings. In this case, the owners might ask for a percentage of what you find or a value of it.
This percentage usually comes down to 50-50. Admittedly, it’s pretty steep. However, the owners are under no obligation to let you practice your hobby for free. They might even ask for more than half of the value.
2. Evidence and Police Assistance
Water bodies are crucial in police investigations because it’s one of the most common places for criminals to discard their weapons after a crime – or even discard bodies.
While it’s rare for magnet fishers to reel in a body, it’s common for them to find weapons such as knives and guns.
In many jurisdictions, the police urge volunteers to help them find weapons for example in Belgium. However, sometimes magnet fishers come across implicit evidence on days when there’s no publicized crime of active investigation going on.
What do you do?
First of all, if you reel in your magnet to find a knife or a gun attached to it, don’t touch it. It’s better to set it aside or handle it with gloves rather than having your fingerprints all over potential evidence in a crime. Secondly, call your local law enforcement to deal with the matter.
Is magnet fishing legal in the US? According to federal law under the ATF in the United States, there’s no such law that inhibits magnet fishing.
So, on a federal, state, or even local level, there’s no restriction upon magnetic fishing.
3. Derangement and Wildlife Concerns
If there’s one thing that’s stopping magnet fishing from being legal in its entirety, it’s the number of wildlife concerns associated with it.
Magnet fishing employs powerful magnets to attract artifacts from the sea. Wildlife authorities are concerned over the uprooting of sea habitats along with those artifacts.
The General Canal Byelaws of 1965 (now known as the Canal and River Trust) as stated by the British Waterways consider magnet fishing as an extremely dangerous hobby and do not allow the practice in bodies of water they control.
Magnet fishing is unlawful in the UK and anyone found guilty will be charged £25 as a fee. The only time it’s allowed in the UK is if it’s on private property, as well as done with the permission of authorities.
4. Artifact Claims
Magnet fishing is legal if you claim a harmless item and not an archeological artifact. In case you stumble upon an artifact of value for the government, you’re required to hand it over to a local governing body or inform the authorities.
The item can’t be sold as-is because sellers will turn you in and have you arrested for failing to claim an artifact to the authorities. This is a serious offense and can result in serious prison time.
Is magnet fishing legal in Wisconsin? Yes, you don’t require a permit to fish for what someone else has discarded. Provided you claim items of value or implicit materials to the authorities. The same goes if you’re wondering is magnet fishing legal in California or is magnet fishing legal in Texas!
The truth is, magnet fishing laws in the US are usually a lot more laid back than what they are in the UK or Europe.
Coming back to the question at hand: Is magnet fishing legal? Yes and no. It’s a gray area.
Magnet fishing laws in the US are varied from magnet fishing laws in the UK, Europe, and other regions. The legal aspect of it is therefore varied in different areas.
Likewise, laws may vary from state to state or even county to county. All in all, magnet fishing follows the same general laws; consent from private owners, artifact claims, evidence, and wildlife concerns.