When you’ve read the umpteenth article regarding astonishing magnet fishing finds such as guns, knives, and grenades, you have to wonder: is magnet fishing even legal?
That’s actually a fair question, since in some places, it’s not.
Some cops may even hassle you for magnet fishing, especially when you bring in live grenades from the water. That may require their bomb squad to detonate the grenade safely, and you’re just adding to the busy workload of these public officials.
So, before you even start magnet fishing, just contact your local police and see if there are any laws regarding magnet fishing in your town. You just never know.
Magnet Fishing Laws in the US
In almost all US states, magnet fishing is legal. The main rule is that if you’re going to use a fishing magnet on another person’s private property, you better ask for permission first.
Another common rule is that you should not violate cultural and natural resources that are publicly owned (owned by the state).
There are rules concerning what you may find through magnet fishing, but in general the activity is legal. Just check that there aren’t any local ordinances about the activity, and you’re good to go.
The main exception here is South Carolina, where it’s basically not legal at all. That’s even though there’s no law that specifically states that magnet fishing is prohibited.
Reportedly, South Carolina took a dimmer view on magnet fishing when a magnet fisher inadvertently destroyed an archeological site in the state. As a result, South Carolina devised a complicated set of rules that basically banned the activity, since the complicated rules will just mess you up.
Some of the rules are as follows:
- First, you need to obtain a Hobby License to take out “artifacts” and fossils from South Carolina waterways. These waterways include the water out to 3 miles from the South Carolina coast.
- Once you have that license, you can haul in up to 10 of these fossils and artifacts per day. These may be yours to own.
- However, the items you recover from the water must first be visually inspected before you take it out of the water.
- You still have to submit quarterly reports about your discoveries through magnet fishing. The state officials then have 60 days to check out your reports, and they may also ask you to submit photos or drawings of your finds.
- While these officials won’t take away your discoveries, they may still ask you to lead some of their people (such as a diver) to the site where you took your discoveries from the water.
The rule about inspecting the artifacts by sight before you take them out of the water is what makes magnet fishing basically illegal. That’s because the activity involves taking things out of the water before you see it.
Magnet Fishing in State-Owned Land in the US
It’s fun to go magnet fishing in state parks, since they’re favorite haunts of holiday-goers.
Where people go, people lose things. And if they lose them in the water, these items are for you to find with your fishing magnet.
Just damage any public property. Also, it’s best if you adjust your fishing methods so that you don’t cause any significant damage to the natural land.
Cultural Finds in the US
However, you may have to show your finds to state park officials before you can claim them for your own. That’s because you may also find an important historical artifact which the state will want to claim.
For example, you may dig up tools and metal plates dating back to colonial times. These may be historically significant, so they will have to stay with the state park officials.
You should check in with them regarding anything you find, so that they can assess your haul and see if they have any historical, cultural, or archeological value.
If your item does have value in this manner, you’re unlikely to get these items back. However, it is very possible that by turning it in to the state park officials, you may get a certain percentage of its monetary value.
Magnet Fishing Laws in the UK
Plenty of people have found lots of exciting stuff in UK waters. However, UK laws regarding magnet fishing is a bit more complicated.
The Canal & River Trust
This is due to the group known as the Canal & River Trust. The group was once known as British Waterways, and they have set up restrictions regarding magnet fishing in the waterways and general public areas over which they have some control.
These rules are the General Canal Bylaws of 1965, and these rules don’t actually mention anything about magnet fishing, specifically. However, the folks at the Canal & River Trust interpret these laws regarding the dredging of waterways, rivers, and canals to also include magnet fishing.
One of the bylaws states that: “No person unless authorised by the Board in that behalf or otherwise legally entitled so to do shall: d) Dredge or remove coal or other material from any canal.
Basically, you first have to get permission from the Canal & River Trust to go magnet fishing in the waterways they control. You won’t get that permission, since the group reportedly regards magnet fishing as “extremely dangerous”.
Cultural Finds in the UK
In the UK, you’re not allowed to use a metal detector (or a fishing magnet) in any area that’s deemed archaeologically important.
Still, it’s a very old place, so you’re bound to find stuff just about anywhere. You may even find gold and silver.
However, if you do find gold and silver items through magnet fishing and they seem old, you have to report your finds to the Coroner’s Office. You have 14 days to contact this office once you’ve found these items.
The Coroner’s Office will then closely inspect your finds and determine if they are considered as “treasures”. Usually, this classification is given to any gold or silver item that’s at least 300 years old.
When that happens, say goodbye to your treasures. The British Museum will then take it, and then display it in their facilities.
The good news is that you may receive a percentage of the value of the treasures.
What if you just sell these items on your own? The problem is that you’ll probably end up in legal trouble.
You can’t sell it online, as plenty of busybodies will report you. The same goes if you try to sell the items to antique dealers.
You’ll probably have to pay a fine, and you may even spend time in jail.
Wreck and Salvage Laws in the US and UK
These laws can be rather complicated, so it’s fortunate that they don’t really come up when it comes to magnet fishing. You very rarely can go magnet fishing in waters that are deep enough for entire ships and boats to sink in.
In most cases in the US, you have derelict ships that are considered abandoned. So, if you find something from an abandoned wreck through your fishing magnet, it’s yours.
The UK laws are somewhat more complicated, though. The main rule you should keep in mind is that if you find a wreck under UK waters, you first have to contact your local authorities immediately.
The report will find its way to the Secretary of State and the Receiver of Work in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The officials will then investigate the wreck, and examine all the items there.
They will also try to discover the previous owners of these items, so you can’t just take things from the wreck and consider them yours.
Finding Firearms Through Magnet Fishing in the US and UK
If ever you find a firearm in the US or UK while magnet fishing, it’s not going to be an ordinary day. That’s because there’s the possibility that the firearm you found was recently used in a crime (such as murder).
So, what do you do if your magnet dredges up firearms from the water?
What you want to avoid is taking off your gloves and then handling the weapons with your hands. You really don’t want your fingerprints on anything that may turn out to be a murder weapon.
So, use your common sense and call the cops. Dial 911, tell them your name and location and that you found a gun.
The police will show up, and then try to determine the owner of the gun. They may also check if it’s involved in any crimes they’re investigating.
It’s actually possible for you to own the gun in the end, if the police officers are unable to find the owner. The owner may also have just thrown the gun away and didn’t want it back, so you can own the gun.
Of course, local rules about gun ownership apply. In some states, you may still have to give it up.
In the UK, private citizens aren’t actually allowed to own handguns in general, so there’s no chance that you’ll get to take it home legally.
This is actually much more complicated, since knife ownership laws can vary widely depending on where you are.
States in the US can enact their own laws regarding various types of knives.
For example, a state may forbid owning any kind of switchblade. So, if you find one and take it, and a cop finds it on you or in your car, you’ll get in trouble.
Some states may allow fixed blade knives, but ban its presence in cars or on your person. So how will you take it home, legally?
You may want to risk taking it home, and then you can just keep it at home where it’s legal.
Some laws are about the length of the knives, such as they’re legal only if the blade is 3 inches or less.
In other words, finding a knife can be a legal headache for you. You may want to contact your local cops, just to be on the safe side before you take it home.
In the UK, the local laws regarding knives may even be more restrictive.
You can take a knife home, but only if the blade is less than 3 inches long. Don’t brandish it in public, just to be safe.
However, if it’s a lock knife, you’re legally obligated to call in the find to the local authorities. In general, these knives aren’t legal for ordinary citizens.
There’s always a legal conundrum when you find something in public areas that aren’t yours.
Is it yours if you find it? Are finders really keepers?
For the most part, that’s actually true with magnet fishing. If you’ve found something in the water, in most cases it’s yours.
The only way these items can be traced back to their original owners is if has their name on the item, or if there’s some sort of serial number (such as with firearms).
In some exceptional cases, you may find a very rare item that may have been reported stolen. But this rarely happens.
That’s why in most cases, you can take home the stuff you find. That’s because in most cases, there’s really no way for local authorities to determine the previous owner.
The general rule is it that if you find something dangerous, you call the cops right away. Call them if you find guns and other sort of weapons.
If you’re in doubt, call them anyway. At least you won’t be in too much legal trouble, since you voluntarily contacted police officials to signify that you have nothing to hide.
It’s when you try to hide stuff that cops end up finding with you that leads to more trouble!