South Whidbey fisherman takes up a new type of tackle

South Whidbey resident John Norris is hunting for treasure.

But he isn’t digging holes or looking for an “x” on a map. The fisherman spends much of his free time throwing a long rope into Whidbey waterways and dragging a very, very powerful magnet on the end.

Norris began “magnet fishing” in November and now it’s a passion of his, he said.

The Clinton resident can regularly be found on docks near the ferry, at Deer Lake or other bodies of water, using what looks like a metal puck to drag up magnetic goods from the deep.

“I’m going to find something good, I know it,” Norris said at a recent excursion on Deer Lake.

Thus far, he’s mostly extracted nuts, bolts, rebar and pocket knives, he said. However, he did find what looks like an old porthole window from some type of vessel and a crab pot.

“In the magnet world, they make a big deal out of stupid stuff,” he said.

His dream is to get permission to “fish” in an old school well or in a pond on a homestead. He’d love to find an old gun or some other piece of “treasure,” he said. Unfortunately gold and silver aren’t magnetic.

And if he does find a gun, he’ll let law enforcement know, especially if it has a legible serial number.

One of the few rules of magnet fishing is to take home what you pull up, he said. Luckily, he’s a self-described “re-purposer.” Whatever he doesn’t use to create something else goes into his scrap pile for future projects.

No license is needed for the sport and it’s not an issue as long as no damage is done, according to Ralph Downs, state Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer. However, Downs said he wasn’t aware of anyone doing it in the area.

Norris also said he hasn’t seen anyone else on the docks with a magnet on their line. It’s especially popular in Europe, he said.

There are thousands of videos on Youtube showing people pulling up antiques or safes containing jewelry, and many of these videos have thousands, in some cases millions, of views.

He hopes more people will get into it. It only set him back $50 to obtain the rope, powerful magnet and gloves for his kit. He has two magnets, one more powerful that’s made for plunking and another smaller one, made for throwing out farther and dragging it along the dirt.

The sand and current in the Puget Sound make it a difficult place for the sport, he said, because the sand tends to cover the goods too deeply. He’s sticking to ponds and lakes, which he’s been looking for using Google Earth.

Norris feels good about his chances of finding something worthwhile.

“I’m just one of those lucky guys,” he said, noting the time he found a human skull in a storage unit auction.

“I’m going to find something cool. I know it. I’m destined to do it.”

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