Magnet Fishing with an Electromagnet

There's been a few people interested in magnet fishing with an electromagnet, and some have even made their own DIY magnets. Why are people so interested in this? Are regular earth magnets not good enough?

Magnet fishing with an electromagnet has its pros and cons. The main benefit is that you can turn it off if the object is too heavy to pull out of the water. The drawbacks being everything else. It's dangerous, it's inconvenient, it's heavy, and it's probably not waterproof. Meaning it will only be effective in shallow water.

If you've ever been magnet fishing you will know the frustration of getting snagged. If your magnet is strong enough, it could even magnetize to the bottom of some bridges. I've heard of a few stories of people having to cut the rope and leave their precious magnets behind.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could turn your magnet off? You can't with a regular magnet, but with an electromagnet is possible.

Question is, is this practical? Is it safe? Is it worth it?

These are the questions I will try to answer in the following article. I'll even include a DIY project completed by another YouTuber using 3 transformers from microwaves.

Magnet Fishing with an Electromagnet
Magnet Fishing with an Electromagnet

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What is an Electromagnet?

In its simplest form, an electromagnet is a man-made magnet produced with a battery, metal, and a piece of brass wire. The battery creates the electrical current, brass carries the current, and the metal becomes magnetized.

The amount of magnification depends on two factors. The power of the battery and the number of coils in the brass wire.

The other thing you have to consider is the length of the wire. As the current travels through the wire there's a significant drop-off.

The more wire you use the more voltage you need. If you use more voltage, then you will need a thicker wire to handle it without burning out.

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Why Would Anyone Want to Fish with One?

The main reason why someone might want to fish with an electromagnet is if they just want to experiment. The only real benefit between electromagnets vs Earth magnets is the ability to turn them off.

We have all been there, our powerful magnet gets stuck while magnet fishing and we end up losing our magnet. Sure, being able to stop a magnet's pull will be useful if you are unable to pull it out of the water. You will save money from losing magnets this way. But will you really save any money?

Building an electromagnet as powerful as a permanent magnet will be very expensive. You would probably have to lose about 4-5 magnets to get your money back. From my experience, you don't lose magnets that often. I admit it might be fun to try out an electromagnet, but from strictly an efficient evaluation, it's not worth the time or money.

How do Electromagnets and Permanent Magnets Differ

Explain why an electromagnet is a temporary magnet

Electromagnets are temporary magnets because, as we've seen, they only function as magnets when current is flowing through their coils. As Magnet fishers we traditionally use permanent magnets. Most of the magnets we buy are neodymium magnets. Let us see what the permanent neodymium magnets are and how they differ from an electromagnet.

Electromagnet vs Neodymium Magnet

ElectromagnetCan turn offNot water proof
Neodymium MagnetWater proof
Can't turn off

Neodymium magnets are the strongest magnets available on the market. Maybe even too strong.

If you're not careful, you may end up clinging on to something too heavy. If it's impossible to lift, and the magnet is too strong, you might not be getting your magnet back.

The great news though is neodymium magnets come in many different sizes and can be quite affordable. I've seen them as low as about 20 bucks for a good starter magnet. I got this one on Amazon when I first started magnet fishing and absolutely loved it.

The bad news, however, if you want to try to get bigger and cooler finds, it becomes more expensive and risky. You will need a much bigger magnet which has the risks previously mentioned.

READ  What is the Right Size Magnet for Magnet Fishing?

Electromagnets are way different than neodymium magnets for obvious reasons. First off, it's pretty uncommon to see anyone magnet fishing with an electromagnet.

Electromagnets can be pretty heavy, and expensive too. The video I will show you later has a YouTuber creating his own electromagnet with parts from 3 microwaves. It actually doesn't look too expensive.

To power his magnet he only used a 12-volt car battery and was able to pick up a power scooter. However, it took three guys and a mini crane, so definitely don't go alone.

The downside is it most likely isn't waterproof. You will need to use the electromagnet on shallow water. Plus as I mentioned, you will probably need a crane and some manpower to get it to work.

It seems like a lot of extra hassle just for the added benefit of an on and off switch. I haven't personally tried it so it's only an observer's opinion. I will leave that for you to decide and feel free to contact us with some stories, pictures, and videos!

How to Make a Home Made Electro Magnet for Magnet Fishing

Materials Needed

  • 3 microwave transformers
  • Copper wire
  • Metal plate
  • Metal band
  • Eyebolt
  • Fiberglass resin
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Electric Safety Sticker
  • A power source (12v car battery or more)


  • Welder
  • Sander
  • Workbench


Warning: This project involves taking apart a microwave which is very dangerous. Please read my article about magnet fishing with microwave magnets. I go over all the dangers involved with taking it apart.

  • The first step is to take apart 3 microwaves for their transformers.
  • Remove the unneeded copper wire and reinstall a bit of wound up copper wire.
  • Cut out a round metal plate and a metal band. Weld the shapes together to create the body of the magnet.
  • Tack weld the transformers, weld the eye bolt and wire it up.
  • Fill the body with the fiberglass resin.
  • Make it look nice by sanding it down, painting it, and adding the safety sticker.
  • Hook it up to a power supply, and go (electro) magnet fishing!
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How he Could Improve His Design

His design is pretty good. Easy to follow as well. To make it even better there's a couple of small improvements I could think of.

More Power

The first thing he could do, and I'm sure he knows this, is to increase the power. a 12-volt battery will be fine for testing it out but more power will probably be needed to make the most out of this electromagnet.

He should figure out how much current each coil will draw. he can measure the resistance of the winding with a multimeter and then plug that into the equation for current.

The equation is current = voltage/resistance

When you have that calculation, you'll be able to figure out how thick your cable needs to be. Keep in mind there will be a drop in voltage as it travels down the cable.

With all this knowledge, you'll be able to safely increase the voltage to your magnet. If you want to try two car batteries you'll need to do the equation and make sure your setup can handle it.

I would start there to see how it works out. If you still need more power you can always add another battery. Just don't overdo it.


Another upgrade is to try and make it a little more waterproof. He did use a good amount of fiberglass resin, and that should help a little bit.

Something else he could try is using a submersible cable. The type usually found on water pumps. The downside is it's pretty expensive, though it should do well underwater and in harsh environments.

Other power sources

Another power source he could try is a lithium battery. You want to make sure it's watertight. It'll probably use a lot of juice so you may need to swap it out after each pull.


As you can see, it is very possible to go magnet fishing with an electromagnet. They aren't designed for this but it works.

You'll need to make sure you do the math and keep safety in mind while creating your electromagnet. Think about the amount of voltage running through the cable as well as trying to keep it waterproof.

Most likely you won't be able to submerge the electromagnet, so you'll want to use it in shallow water. It might be possible to make it waterproof but it is a big risk.

Enjoy your magnet fishing adventure! If you find anything cool please send us a picture! Tell us your story so we can share it with the other readers!

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Magnet Fishing Adventure

Anthony is passionate about magnet fishing. He likes to go out magnet fishing with his friends. On this site he shares his knowledge, experience, and details about magnet fishing gear and research with you.

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