A different kind of fishing from Brainerd bridges

Brainerd native Dennis Nelson fishes for anything metallic in the Mississippi River.

A man talking to an officer.
Dennis Nelson, left, talking with Brainerd Police Officer Travis Gleason Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2023, on the Washington Street bridge. Gleason stopped to check on Nelson after a passerby called for a welfare check.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Most fishing in the Brainerd lakes area requires the purchase of a license — that is unless you are fishing for metal.

With magnet fishing, “anglers” search outdoor waterways for metallic objects by using a magnet — typically a strong neodymium magnet secured to a durable rope.

Brainerd native Dennis Nelson is active in magnet fishing and can often be seen dangling a rope off bridges in the area. He said he has yet to “catch the big one,” but has pulled out some old knives and rebar using his fishing magnet.

Watching YouTube videos on magnetic fishing about three years ago, Nelson said he decided to purchase his magnet fishing setup and take up the hobby. A quick Google search shows how popular magnet fishing has become in the U.S., with people catching everything from shopping carts, to toys, to old pipes.

A man with a magnet on a rope.
Dennis Nelson explains magnet fishing Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2023, on the Washington Street bridge.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

While Nelson was fishing Monday, Feb. 13, in the Mississippi River off the Washington Street bridge in Brainerd, Brainerd Police Officer Travis Gleason stopped to make sure Nelson was doing OK, as a passerby had called in for a welfare check for the man on the bridge.


Though he often wears high-visibility clothes to stand out on the bridge, Nelson said it is a regular occurrence to have officers stop and talk to him. But he doesn't mind the quick interactions.

“Picking up metal and cleaning the river, it’s not a problem,” said Brainerd Deputy Police Chief John Davis.

Davis said the activity is legal and is not doing any harm, but the department will always respond to calls for service and are more than happy to check on an individual.

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TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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