Taking the Twins Magnet Fishing at the Metroparks
In the myriad ways to pass a sunny afternoon, "magnet fishing" isn't usually at the top of the list, wedged somewhere between a bucolic picnic and kite flying. Yet, there I was with my two eight-year-old grandsons, Joshua and Silas, at the idyllic Hudson Mills Metropark, armed with high-strength magnets, 65-foot ropes, and visions of sunken treasure dancing in our heads.
I had baited the twins into the activity with words like “treasure hunt” and “hidden artifacts.” I may have oversold it. Looking at the three-gallon bucket I added to our gear to hold our loot, Silas noted excitedly, “We’re going to need a bigger bucket!”
“Are you quoting ‘Jaws?’” I asked.
“Never mind. Let’s go.”
Magnet fishing, or “magnetic fishing,” is a hobby where individuals use a strong magnet to search waterways for metal objects. The magnet is attached to a rope and thrown into bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, or ponds. When the magnet sticks to ferrous metal objects, they can be pulled up and out of the water.
The three of us embarked for the first time on this unconventional angling expedition downstream from the bridge to Bloodroot Island at Hudson Mills Metropark. Frequent visitors may know it as a haven for fly fishing—perhaps too keen on the aesthetic of their craft to realize they’ve left behind some ferrous goodies. Just the kind of lackluster oversight we were hoping for.
Gear Up or Go Home
For the boys, I opted for the VNDUEEY fishing kits available for $25.99 on Amazon (note: we’re not gaining a penny from mentioning this). These come with 760-pound pull force magnets—probably higher than the actual strength of the rope or, let's be honest, the angler. Eager to flex my grandparental muscles, I splurged on a 2,000-pound pull force magnet for myself. Why? Well, to show off in front of my grandsons and hopefully pull something like a safe or a car up from the depths.
“Pull force” is the sheer muscle behind the magnet's attraction to ferromagnetic materials (like iron or steel) when pulled straight away from the metal. However, it takes much less force to slide something sideways off the magnet. An eight-year-old can do it.
Ferromagnetic materials exhibit strong magnetic properties when exposed to a magnetic field, which disappointingly rules out gold and silver. Though, as Josh ingeniously pointed out, "But, the magnet might stick to the hinge of a treasure chest filled with gold!"
Casting and Catastrophes
He was on the right track. The most commonly known ferromagnetic materials are iron, nickel, and cobalt, along with various alloys and rare earth metals like neodymium. Neodymium goes for about $126.30 per kilogram. Iron goes for $92 a ton. Apples and oranges, metric and imperial, you get the idea. I was secretly hoping for three gallons of neodymium.
Before you could say "neodymium,” I found myself in the role of Rope-Tangle-Resolver-in-Chief. Casting these magnets involves a swing-and-throw method that could either give you a satisfying thonk as the magnet hits the water or send it hurtling skyward, evoking thoughts of medieval siege weaponry. In the latter case, it triggers a grandpa-induced frisson that sends everyone scrambling for cover, including the geese across the river.
Moving Targets and Stony Finds
After thirty minutes of watching me untangle rope and laughing at the scattering geese, the twins got bored. I knew this because they each yelled, “I’m bored,” loud enough for the picnickers on Bloodroot Island to pause mid-bite and look up at us. I was losing them. “Okay, let’s try a new spot,” I said. Silas looked at me with one eyebrow raised. He couldn’t do that before today. Ironically, pulling in the magnets for the last time produced a fishing hook with a length of line attached.
“How much is it worth?” asked Joshua a little breathlessly.
“Let’s try a different spot,” I said, ignoring him. I should never have called this a treasure hunt.
I decided to relocate to Dexter-Huron Metropark, where the river is relatively close to the parking lot and, thus, easier on disappointment. But luck—or magnetic attraction?—was with us. Upon arrival, the boys discovered a waterlogged tank top and an equally sodden peace-sign chew toy. These simple finds sparked renewed enthusiasm for what might be out there waiting to be discovered.
We cast into the Mighty Huron, and things took off immediately. Josh reeled in his first toss to find two stones “magneted” (grammar be damned) to his magnet. They wondered what it was. I’m no geologist, but I guessed some iron was mixed with other minerals. The pull force wasn’t much, but it didn’t matter. Josh and Silas were off to the races, transformed into veritable magnet-wielding geologists. After a few more casts, they were wading around, magnet in hand, "magneting" all kinds of rocks.
It's All About the Journey
Though our bounty was far from the dream bucket of neodymium, the joy was real. Bystanders grew curious, and Josh happily educated them about the art of “magneting”—despite my futile attempts to promote the term “magnetic attraction.”
All told, we spent about three fun hours exploring, finding, and magneting. The boys loved it and are already plotting their next magnet fishing adventure. Mission accomplished.
A Few Words of Caution
For any would-be magnet anglers out there, take heed: the Mighty Huron's water levels are currently high, and its currents are no joke. Always prioritize safety, and maybe check in with the local authorities—like we did at Hudson Mills—before dredging up their underwater artifacts.
So, there you have it. In a world where the pull of screens is often stronger than any magnet, a day outside with ropes, magnets, and kids is a treasure unto itself. Happy fishing—magnet or otherwise!
Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Doug Marrin