Magnetic type of ‘fishing’ is growing more popular in WA waters

On a recent overcast day in Olympia, comedian and avid fisherman Sam Miller was rigging his gear on a bridge, sweat beading on his brow as he tied knots and prepared to heave his heavy tackle into the water.

But it wasn’t salmon or steelhead he was after. Miller counts himself among Western Washington’s magnet fishers — the community that pursues this New Age hobby, which involves dropping a powerful magnet tied to heavy-duty ropes into a body of water with the purpose of pulling out metal objects. It’s an aquatic treasure hunt of sorts.

Sam Miller works to free a spike found in the waters of Green Lake in Seattle. (Kevin Clark / The Seattle Times)

Sam Miller works to free a spike found in the waters of Green Lake in Seattle. (Kevin Clark / The Seattle Times)
“When you’re magnet fishing and you get a good hit, the vibration will go up the piling, and then you start pulling and you feel it come off the bottom, and then you are thinking, ‘How heavy is this?’ ” Miller said. “Of every object in the universe, you are thinking, ‘What object is this?’ ”

Deep-sea fishing, trolling, mooching, casting and fly-fishing are fishing disciplines ingrained in the ethos of the Pacific Northwest, with skills passed down through generations. Magnet fishing may not have the same heritage, but many find the sport just as effective for blowing off steam. For others, magnet fishing has a deeper purpose: It’s a way to keep waterways clean while finding magical hunks of metal.


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