Magnetic fishing: A new Edinburgh craze?

Over a year ago, while he was trawling in the dark depths of the internet, Calum Black found something extraordinary: magnetic fishing.

By Petra Kotkova
Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 5:34 pm
Calum Black never knows what he might find

This hobby is exactly what it sounds like – fishing, but with a magnet. However, instead of fish you are searching for the “hidden treasures” submerged in the outdoor waters such as rivers, canals, reservoirs and even flooded former mine works and quarries.

Black’s Facebook group, Magnetic fishing in Edinburgh, which started with only three people at the beginning of the year, has now gained more than 4,500 enthusiastic followers.

And those who love the hobby, who come in all ages and sexes, been exploring the network of rivers and canals all around Edinburgh and the Lothians, searching for anything and everything that the waters have to offer – often lying hidden beneath the silt-laden murk.

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“I enjoy it because you never know what you are going to find, that’s what makes it exciting,” says Black. “I am very happy that I have been able to get more people involved in the hobby and it’s amazing how fast the group is growing,” he added.

From car keys to old safes to new bicycles – magnetic “fishermen” – a group comprising of women and children from primary age to their teens – have seen it all.

“You just need to be careful what you are bringing out,” Black explains.

Almost a year ago, while “fishing” in Broxburn, Black brought up a suspicious package. “At first, I did not know what it was, until I saw the wire. There was like an air can inside, so I decided to call the police.”

After Black called the police, a bomb squad was deployed from Rosyth Naval Base and concluded that the package he had fished out was a home‑made bomb – an improvised explosive device (IED).

Other magnet fishers have hauled bullets and even a grenade out of local waters, while in Glagow a recent haul included handguns.

Speaking about the IED, Black said: “They took it to a field and blew it up. Yes, it’s scary but that’s what makes it exciting, because you don’t know what you are going to find and it makes you wonder how that got there.”

Although this was a rare find, it is not the only dangerous thing fished out by the magnetic fishing enthusiasts.

“There are loads of people down in London that have found guns and bombs fromthe First and Second World Wars,” Black explains. “But my worst find was [when] one of the members and I were out, we pulled in a duffle bag with cat remains in it.”

But it’s not all scary stuff Black with his friends pull out of the water.

“We found someone’s stolen bag at Leith. It was stolen 20 years ago, and we managed to get it back to the owner.”

As dangerous as it might seem, magnetic fishing is, according to Black, a heap of fun, and he hopes to get even more people interested.