Magnet fishermen pull stolen motorcycle, live World War II rocket from river

Xan Dulyea-Lowing and his father have also reclaimed e-scooters, historic firearms and artillery, and made thousands of dollars selling scrap metal.
Xan Dulyea-Lowing
Posted at 11:18 AM, Jun 05, 2024

On an overgrown bank of the Grand River in western Michigan, Xan Dulyea-Lowing tossed the city's heaviest lure (by Scripps News' unofficial estimation) into shallow water. He fished not for the living, but for the dead, collecting pieces of scrap metal and history as he dragged the weighty magnet across the muddy riverbed.

"You could spend thirty seconds pulling it in or you could spend two minutes," Dulyea-Lowing said. "The slower you are, the better chance."

Last month, Scripps News West Michigan correspondent Sam Landstra went magnet fishing with Dulyea-Lowing and his father, Cal Lowing, as they shared tall (and true) tales from the alluring hobby of magnet angling — including how they pulled up a stolen motorcycle.

Magnet Fishing

"The thrill," Lowing said. "You never know what you're going to get."

In 2023, Dulyea-Lowing and a friend returned to an old, forgotten spot and latched onto "something really heavy."

"We tried pulling and pulling," said Dulyea-Lowing, describing how his magnet ripped off pieces — a brake lever, a rearview mirror— but could not bring up the body of the bike.

Exhausted and mostly empty-handed, they abandoned the work.

Two months later, they returned to the spot with reinforcements: A dive team, a vehicle, and more magnet anglers, including Dulyea-Lowing's dad.

Finally, they freed the motorcycle from its waterlogged prison, pulling it onto dry ground with the vehicle.

Xan Dulyea-Lowing

"A Honda CL175," Dulyea-Lowing said. "My first motorcycle. I was excited."

Inspecting the rusted ride (and the other mopeds and laptops they found that day), they realized it was stolen and turned it over to city police.

In addition to the motorcycle, the father-son duo has pulled up more than 200 electric scooters from the Red Cedar River on the Michigan State University campus, reclaimed historic firearms and artillery, and made thousands of dollars from selling scrap metal.

Cal Lowing and Xan Dulyea-Lowing

"You want that piece telling you the history of what it was involved in," said Dulyea-Lowing, describing his favorite finds, which include a live bazooka rocket from World War II and an 1829 Jukar Spain pistol.

In such cases, the father and son say they always contact police to see if they're able to keep the weapon. The rocket, though, had to be disposed of by a bomb squad in a nearby gravel pit.

Xan Dulyea-Lowing

"You name it, we found it," Dulyea-Lowing said. "We're cleaning out that water. If [you] swim in it, [you] aren't getting cut on that rebar.”

The hobby has little restrictions and straightforward equipment: Magnets, rope and hooks, for the most part. If those who take part in the pastime properly dispose of their finds, magnet fishing can seem like a public service.

Magnet Fishing

"We basically steal from Mother Nature," Lowing said. "We take anything that has been thrown in the water, and get that back out and recycle it."

This story was originally published by Sam Landstra at Scripps News West Michigan.