Anchors and Amps: Here's What We Found When We Went Magnet Fishing

Just how valuable are the items you might pick up after chucking a magnet on a rope into a murky canal?

by Nils Hagemann; photos by Henry Giggenbach
22 October 2019, 8:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

It's a grey summer's day in Berlin. Every now and again a gentle breeze drifts across the quiet Landwehr Canal, creating ripples in the murky water. Armed with a long red rope connected to an extra large magnet, we stand quietly against the quay wall. Standing here, we become a perfect photo op for passing tourists, who pull out their phones and whisper about how alternative and unique Berlin is. Fair enough: we're about to go magnet fishing.

Magnet fishing might sound strange, but people are definitely into it. Thousands of YouTube videos show people suited-up in outdoor gear pulling things out of the water. Among the garbage, heavy metal enthusiasts also pull out bullets, bicycles and once in a while, actual treasure.

Grenades and other weapons are also commonly fished out, which is why the sport isn’t always encouraged by authorities, and some countries (including England and France) have restricted it completely. According to our research, magnet fishing isn’t technically prohibited in Berlin – so we thought we'd give it a go. Here's what we pulled out.

An Amplifier

There’s a small splash as the rope cuts through the oily surface and the magnet plunges into the water. We reel in our first big find: an amplifier; perhaps a relic of the Berlin techno scene. We fantasise about the history behind it – maybe a DJ was booked for the gig of his life, got completely pissed before the gig and showed up too late to perform. In a great fit of frustration, he threw his equipment into the canal.


An Anchor

We heave a metal frame covered in mussels out of the water. The endorphins are rushing as we set eyes on the potential treasure. It's just an anchor. Magnetic fishing is sort of like gambling – it's kind of disgusting and you actually never win. And yet you continue.


Bits and Bobs

According to the user manual, our magnet can handle 770 kilograms and features a "Ni + Cu + Ni triple layer". We don't know what that means, but apparently it can pull up some really useless shit. We're talking bits of old buildings, some pocket change and even a spoon. Our hopes of finding real treasure aren’t looking too good.

Löffel, Geld und Feuerzeug

Bicycle Locks

We find four broken broken bicycle locks in quick succession. Still nothing overtly criminal. We hoped for bullets, firearms or at least some knives, but alas – not a single trace of weaponry.

geknacktes Fahrradschloss

A Bicycle

Eventually, we fish out an entire bicycle – a spectacular find. Even more spectacular, however, was dragging it back to the editorial office. It smells absolutely horrible and looks like the congealed mud and leaves you find on city streets in autumn. En route back to the office, we’re the main attraction on the metro; many ask for photos and the story behind the bike. We’re more than happy to discuss our new hobby: magnet fishing.


Bottle Caps

We pulled a great many bottle caps from the murky brown brew of Berlin’s waters. Forget what you thought you knew; organic soda drinkers like to litter. Also, pulling bottle caps off an extremely strong magnet is tough work. Bottom line: if you want to make it as a magnetic fisherman, you need great patience – and calloused fingertips.

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