May 21, 2021

Magnet fishing group helps clean up Maine waterways

Items shown were recovered by EMMF
members using magnet fishing in the
Presumpscot River earlier this month.
By Daniel Gray

If you haven’t yet heard about magnet fishing, if you’re anywhere near a river or lake, you probably soon will.

Based in Lewiston, Colt Busch and Cameron Fox have fished for the good of Maine lakes and rivers for over two years now and their group, Eco Maine Magnet Fisher, has been helping to keep our waters cleaner than ever.

Earlier this month the group went magnet fishing off the Black Bridge in Westbrook on Presumpscot River. They ended up pulling a number of old bikes, scrap metal and even shopping carts out of the waters that afternoon, and that isn't all of the debris they found there.

According to Busch, underneath the water's surface, there's a maze of metal there.

The goal of their EMMF group is to clean up most things that are underwater using a technique called magnet fishing. Magnet fishing uses a large, strong magnet to drag across the bottom of a river or lake to “fish up” anything it can find there.

"We're basically trying to clean up rivers in Maine," said EMMF co-founder Fox. "On Saturday we found about four bikes and two shopping carts that were dumped in the river with no respect to the waterway."

Not only is it not respecting Maine's waters, but also the safety of others and of wildlife that inhabits the river’s waters.

"People jump off the Black Bridge when they're young, so with summer approaching, we put in our best effort to get rid of stuff under water to make it safer for people to jump," Busch said.

Both founders of EMMF, Busch and Fox, had a slow start to launching their group.

They first learned about magnet fishing being done overseas in English canals. After doing their research, the two found other magnet fishing groups in Maine and quickly reached out.

Since then, they have been happy to help clear out the waters of Maine for both the ecosystem, but also for the adventure.

"You never know what you're about to get. We've found so much already but we've just gotten started." Busch said. "We've found maybe 40 or more bikes, 20 shopping carts, but also rarer finds like a safe and old antiques."

The basic equipment for the EMMF include grappling hooks to snag objects coming out of the water, along with their main feature, powerful magnets. The magnets themselves are rather heavy, more than 1,000 pounds typically.

Busch said that there are multiple kinds of magnet fishing kits that suit different needs and age groups.

And for magnet fishing, you don't need much equipment to get the job done, he said.

EMMF has grown to a group of nine participants so far that typically cover the Lewiston and Westbrook canals and rivers.

Each body of water has their own story when it comes to what they fish up and Busch said that he personally loves the “mysteries” the waters hold.

"We found a wheelchair once and I wanted to know how it got in there so badly,” he said. “You just naturally want to know how some of these items turn up in the middle of a waterway."

As for the materials EMMF retrieves from the water, a majority is never trashed. Being mostly all metal, it is either recycled or repurposed into art by a close friend of their group.

Everything dragged out of the water has a new purpose and even some bikes have been restored to riding condition.

"I'm glad that Colt and I teamed up to make this world a little better place, especially for the kids in the future and anyone that wants to enjoy the waterways." Fox said.

For more information about magnet fishing in Maine, visit Citizen Magnet Fishing on Facebook. <

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