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STUCK ON YOU: 'Strong pull' draws Michigan magnet fishing duo together

Nancy and Joseph had never met, until the day she got her magnet stuck on something big. Joseph decided to help, which led to them "magnetizing" to each other.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When most people decide to go fishing in a lake, river or stream, they grab the essentials like a fishing pole, tackle box loaded with bait, bobbers, etc. and a net.

But fishing doesn't always involve shiny, spinning things or worms on a hook. Sometimes "big game" - including the love of your life - can be brought in using a high-powered magnet tied to a rope.

Magnet fishing has become a very popular pastime in Grand Rapids. Many people purchase the strongest and most expensive magnets out there, then venture downtown to various locations along the Grand River, hoping to pull in stuff that sank long ago.

"I've found so many different things," said Joseph Alexander, 31, who operates his own magnet fishing YouTube channel entitled Toothless Outdoors. "From old guns and rifles to an ax head from the fur trading era to a Satanic Ritual kit, the Grand River always has something to give up."

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE
"The thrill of the unknown keeps me doing it," said Magnet Fisherman, Joseph Alexander. He pulled in this Satanic Ritual set in the Grand River.
Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE
Joseph Alexander has had guns, knives and other random things meet his magnet, including this 1914 Michigan license plate and fur trade era ax head.

Joseph magnet fishes mostly with his friend Adam Gross, who also shares his prized finds on a YouTube channel, which he calls Ferrous Fishing. The pair say they're usually lobbing their magnets into the river near the 6th St. Bridge up to three times each week.

"I have always been into kayaking and I'd always see things on the bottom of rivers while floating," said Adam, 35, who started magnet fishing in 2018. "I would always wonder how I could get that stuff."

Well, he found out how. Adam went online and spent $300 for a magnet on a rope.

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE
Nancy Ortman (left), Joseph Alexander (center) and Adam Gross (right) all working hard to pull up a heavy item in the Grand River.

"We just throw them in the water and see what we can pull up," added Adam. "You never know what you're going to get and if it last touched someone's hands over a hundred years ago."

On the day 13 ON YOUR SIDE joined them, among the many items that caught on the river bottom were street signs, a bike frame, scooter, piping and many, many other items that were impossible to identify.

"It's addicting," added Joseph. "The suspense of what will be next is what really draws me in."

On July 19, 2020, while magnet fishing, Joseph drew something to him he didn't expect and admittedly wasn't trying to find.

This item wasn't made of metal.

"I was [magnet] fishing on the sidewalk along the west side of the river," Joseph explained, "when I looked to my right and saw another person had her magnet stuck on something big."

"I called for help," said Nancy Ortman, 39, who'd recently picked up the hobby of magnet fishing.

"I went down to her and helped her get unstuck," said Joseph. 

Later that night, Nancy said she messaged Joseph on Facebook, thanking him for the help.

"Since then, we've been inseparable," said Joseph. "Magnet fishing brought us together and I've never been happier."

If there's anybody who should know the feeling of a "strong pull," it's those avidly involved in magnet fishing. 

Credit: Joseph Alexander
Joseph Alexander helped Nancy Ortman get her magnet unstuck from something in the Grand River. Now they can't seem to get 'unstuck' from each other.

"I found some cool stuff that day, but none of that mattered at that point," said Joseph. "She's the catch of my life, and I've found guns, grenades and everything."

If you're interested in learning more about magnet fishing, both Joseph and Adam say they enjoy helping introduce new people to the hobby. Joseph can be reached by direct message to his Toothless Outdoors Facebook page, while Adam welcomes emails to ferrousfishing@gmail.com.

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