Safety warning as rise in magnet fishing hobby sees anglers fish out guns and grenades in UK rivers

Coran Elliott
A man uncovered an Uzi submachine gun from a London canal using a magnet - Gareth Bryer / Triangle News

Hobbyists have been urged to stop fishing with super-strength magnets after guns and grenades were plucked from the bottom of Britain's canals.

Magnet fishing has attracted an increasing number of enthusiasts after the unusual hobby was highlighted by England rugby star James Haskell earlier this year. 

But authorities are now cautioning against the activity after a number of dangerous objects were dredged up from Britain’s rivers and canals including several unexploded World War Two grenades and an Uzi submachine gun.

In June, Martin Andrews, 43, and his son Jack, 19, died while magnet fishing in a canal in Huddersfield. An inquest was opened and adjourned at Bradford Coroner's Court.

The pair had only recently discovered magnet fishing - and had bonded over collecting many old an unusual items, but the alarm was raised when a dog-walker found their belongings on a nearby bank.

The Canal and River Trust said the practice is outlawed under a 53-year-old byelaw but that its approach was to refrain from taking legal action when dealing with first-time offenders.

20 to 30 parts of firearms were discovered in Somerset after a man had been magnet fishing Credit: SWNS.com

Under the General Canal Byelaw 1965, no person unless authorised is allowed to "dredge or remove coal or other material from any canal" with offenders liable for a £25 fine.

Trust spokeswoman Fran Read said: "We are always keen to have visitors come to our waterways and take an interest in the weird and wonderful items that sometimes lie at the bottom of the canal.

"However, magnet fishing can have its dangers and consequently it is expressly prohibited by the Trust.

“In recent months, magnet fishers have pulled out items that had been in the water a very long time and were potentially dangerous - fishing them out with magnets could have resulted in harm to the individual.

“Furthermore, the objects removed are often then discarded on the towpath, creating an obstruction or potential hazard to others, and placing added demands on our charity’s resources in removing them.’’

Gareth Bryer pulled a knife out of Enfield Lock, London whilst magnet fishing  Credit: Gareth Bryer / Triangle News 

The use of magnets in the water was first thought to have been used by boat drivers as an effective way to recover their keys when they were dropped in open water.

Following its success, it was quickly seized upon as an opportunity to find hidden treasures lurking on canal beds.

Magnet fishing enthusiasts told The Sunday Telegraph the practice had seen its popularity grow through social media with some anglers viewing it as a form of environmental activism as well as an enjoyable recreational activity.

Michael Bradley, who has amassed more than five million views on his magnet fishing YouTube channel ‘That’s Brad’, said: ‘‘I see it as we are doing nature a favour.  

"We clear junk from rivers, streams and canals it’s benefiting everybody.  

‘’Those who use the canal love it, their boats are no longer getting damaged. We are doing the country a favour.

"It’s no different to walking down the street and putting litter in the bin. It’s an environmental hobby.’’

Gareth Bryer magnet fishing in Enfield Lock, London  Credit: Gareth Bryer / Triangle News

Simon Elliott, head of sales at First4Magnets, added: "Magnet Fishing really started to evolve through videos shared on YouTube.  

"James (Haskell) certainly helped to increase the awareness of magnet fishing. He’s a great character and has a strong fan base across social media."

Police have previously urged anyone to contact them if any significant discoveries are fished from canals.

The popularity of TV shows such as Detectorist was last year seen as the reason for a rise in metal detector finds. 

The BBC sitcom which aired in 2014 tempted more amature searchers to try out the hobby.

Statistics released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show that the overall number of treasure discoveries rose to 1,121 in 2016, up from 1,005 in 2015.